NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The postseason for Major League Baseball is set with 14 former Vanderbilt student-athletes and staff moving on to the playoffs.
Sonny Gray’s historic 2023 campaign helped lead the Minnesota Twins to a ninth AL Central title and the No. 3 seed in the playoffs where they will host Toronto in the Wild Card Series Oct. 3-5 at Target Field.
Gray finished the regular season with a 2.79 ERA, second-best among qualified pitchers in the AL and best by a Twins pitcher in a full season since Johan Santana’s second CY Young season in 2006. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has announced that Gray will take the mound for Game 2 in the Wild Card Series on Wednesday at 3:38 p.m. CT on ESPN.
Joining Gray in the postseason is Kyle Wright as the top-seeded Atlanta Braves wrapped up the regular season with the MLB’s best record. Wright missed most of the season due to injury but rejoined the team September 11 and made four appearances down the stretch. Wright, who is coming off a 21-win season in 2022, allowed two earned over 5.1 innings of relief work in his final two outings before the postseason.
Elsewhere around the MLB, 14 former Commodores spent time on MLB rosters* during the regular season including Connor Kaiser who made his MLB debut on June 19 with the Colorado Rockies.
Bryan Reynolds led the Pittsburgh Pirates with 84 RBI this season. His 31 doubles were tied for the team lead and he ranked second on the club with 24 homers.
In his first season with the Cubs, Dansby Swanson finished the year with 22 homers while totaling 80 RBI, third-most on the team. Swanson proved to be one of the top shortstops defensively yet again, finishing with 14 total zone runs, tied for most among National League shortstops.
Tony Kemp was recognized by the Oakland Athletics as their nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, bestowed annually to the player who best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.
Congratulations to @tonykemp on being named our 2023 Roberto Clemente Award nominee!
— Oakland A’s (@Athletics) September 8, 2023
On the mound, Drew VerHagen posted a 3.98 ERA over 60 appearances for the Cardinals. He struck out 60 batters over 61 innings and finished with a 5-1 record.
Several Dores enjoyed successful seasons in the minors as well.
Spencer Jones finished the 2023 season as the top-ranked New York Yankees prospect and the No. 73 prospect overall. Jones hit .267 with 16 homers and 66 RBIs across 117 games in High-A and Double-AA. Jones also stole 43 bases on 55 attempts.
Spencer Jones homers in his first at-bat to give him 2 dingers in his past 3 @SOMPatriots games!
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 17, 2023
Stephen Scott hit 19 homers with 66 RBIs in 2023 with 13 of those homers coming with the Worcester Red Sox (AAA – Boston Red Sox).
Austin Martin played 59 games for St. Paul (AAA – Minnesota Twins). The versatile Martin made appearances in four different positions for St. Paul and finished with six homers and 28 RBIs. He is currently ranked as the No. 20 prospect in the Twins organization.
Jack Leiter (AAA – Texas Rangers) was promoted to AAA Round Rock for his last appearance of 2023. He tossed 81.2 innings in AA and totaled 110 strikeouts. Leiter comes in at No. 5 in Texas’ prospect rankings.
First Triple-A start is in the books for @jackleiter22 ✅
His final line: 3.1 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Take a look at his first career strikeout! ⬇ pic.twitter.com/iAk7pDrVBi
— Round Rock Express (@RRExpress) September 24, 2023
Another former VandyBoy who earned promotion was Javier Vaz (AA – Kansas City Royals). Vaz started the season in High-A before getting called up to AA where he played in 33 games and hit .304. In 119 games overall this season, Vaz hit .279 and stole 30 bases, getting caught only three times. He was recognized by the Royals with the Alex Gordon Heart & Hustle Award and is the No. 13 prospect in the organization.
#Royals prospect Javier Vaz on being honored with the 2023 Alex Gordon Heart & Hustle Award: “I’m representing Alex Gordon and more so the type of person he is and the type of player he is. … That’s exactly the type player I want to be reminded of.” pic.twitter.com/dhWzjV6fBD
— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) September 30, 2023
Just a short trip north up I-65 from Nashville, Dom Keegan belted eight home runs with 30 RBIs in 48 games for the Bowling Green Hot Rods (High-A – Tampa Bay Rays) after being promoted from Single-A. Keegan hit .287 on the season with 13 homers and 65 RBIs.
Chris McElvain finished his first season of professional ball with a 5-5 record and a 3.75 ERA. McElvain finished the season with Dayton, the High-A affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds.
Enrique Bradfield Jr., who was selected in the first round of the 2023 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles, made 25 appearances this season across three levels, finishing the year with High-A Aberdeen. Bradfield swiped 25 bags on 27 attempts and hit .291 while drawing 26 walks.
RJ Schreck, another 2023 draftee, hit his first professional home run in just his second game with the ACL Mariners before being promoted to Single-A Modesto where he made 25 appearances.
In total, 14 former Commodore staff and players are with postseason clubs.
Toronto Blue Jays
• Gil Kim – (MLB Field Coordinator)
• Drew Hayes – (Player Development)
• Derek Schiller – (President)
• Andrew Walters – (Senior Director, Membership Sales & Service)
• Kyle Wright
Los Angeles Dodgers
• Walker Buehler*
• Tony Mansolino – (Third Base Coach)
• Caleb Cotham – (MLB Pitching Coach)
• Mike Calitri – (MLB Bench Coach)
Tampa Bay Rays
• Jeremy Sowers – (Manager, Major League Operations)
• Brad Ballew – (Coordinator, Baseball Operations)
• Matthew Bennett – (Player Development)
• Sanford Sternberg – (Director, Development Strategy)
• Sonny Gray
* – Walker Buehler missed the 2023 season due to injury