Armed with one of the top pitching staffs in the nation and five returning position player starters, Vanderbilt is ranked No. 1 in Collegiate Baseball’s Top 40 NCAA Division I preseason poll.
The defending national champions feature four Louisville Slugger preseason All-Americans including RHP Carson Fulmer (7-1, 10 SV, 1.98 ERA, 98 K), RHP Walker Buehler (12-2, 2.64 ERA, 111 K), SS Dansby Swanson (.333, 27 2B, 34 RBI, 22 SB) and LF Bryan Reynolds (.338, 24 2B, 54 RBI, 14 SB).
The preseason poll factors in voting by NCAA Division I coaches across the nation, how a team finished last season, returning position player starters and pitchers, potential draft picks along with the quality of its recruiting class last fall.
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There are a number of compelling reasons to pick Vanderbilt as the preseason No. 1 team. At the top of the list is the Commodores’ pitching staff which features two pre-season All-Americans in Fulmer and Buehler.
Both are expected to be first round draft picks next June. Fulmer has a mid to upper 90s fastball in addition to a plus slider and developing change. Buehler fired pitches from 92-95 mph during the summer in the Cape Cod League.
Vanderbilt also has RHP Tyler Ferguson back (8-4, 2.69 ERA, 65 K, 30 BB), closer Hayden Stone (3 SV, 4-0, 1.71 ERA, 23 AP, 80 K, 14 BB) and LHP John Kilichowski (1.57 ERA, 13 AP, 22 K).
If that wasn’t enough, LHP Philip Pfeifer returns after a year away from the baseball team after failing to meet “team standards.”
He was superb last fall as his fastball was consistently at 89-92 mph. Pfeifer set the Tennessee prep record with a 46-4 career record, won four state titles at Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn. and set a state mark with 465 strikeouts during his career.
As far as position players, Vanderbilt returns five starters, including two Louisville Slugger pre-season All-Americans in Swanson and Reynolds.
The Commodores swiped 17 bases in 23 attempts over seven games at the College World Series which was three times more than any other team in the field. On defense, Vanderbilt only allowed 3 stolen bases in 13 NCAA tournament games.
The 17 stolen bases tied a College World Series record for most stolen bases.
Vanderbilt ended the season with 120 stolen bases which ranked third nationally.
Four of the top base stealers are back in 2015 with Swanson (22), Reynolds (14), Wiel (13) and Wiseman (12).