SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- JJ Bleday could be the first college outfielder selected in the 2019 MLB Draft in June. During this weekend's inaugural MLB4 college baseball tournament, the Vanderbilt standout is showing why that's a strong possibility.Bleday, MLB Pipeline's No. 24 2019 Draft prospect, demonstrated his 55-grade hitting tools with
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- JJ Bleday could be the first college outfielder selected in the 2019 MLB Draft in June. During this weekend's inaugural MLB4 college baseball tournament, the Vanderbilt standout is showing why that's a strong possibility.
Bleday, MLB Pipeline's No. 24 2019 Draft prospect, demonstrated his 55-grade hitting tools with five hits over the Commodores' first two games, while also flashing his 50-grade power with his first home run of the season in Vanderbilt's 14-9 win over Cal State Fullerton on Saturday at Salt River Fields.
After going 3-for-6 with an RBI in Friday night's win over Virginia, Bleday went 2-for-6 with two RBIs in Saturday's victory. He homered off Cal State Fullerton starter Timothy Josten on the first pitch of the bottom of the second inning.
"He's just an older presence at the plate. Even though he's a junior, he performs like he's a guy who's been around the league for four or five years," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "Just an old soul, that's what he is; just an older kid, one of the most low-maintenance guys I've ever coached in my life. I say very little to him, he's kind of self-paced."
The Commodores scored 15 runs on 17 hits on Friday, then 14 runs on 14 hits on Saturday. Bleday isn't the only Vandy hitter off to a hot start. Austin Martin is 5-for-6 with a double, triple, one RBI and eight runs scored through two games. Ethan Paul has five total hits and homered on Friday. Philip Clarke hit a first-inning grand slam on Saturday, part of a 2-for-3, five-RBI day.
Vanderbilt scored 13 runs through the first four innings on Friday, then had 12 runs through five innings on Saturday.
"I think we've stayed aggressive and stayed on it," Bleday said. "Our staff, particularly Corbs, says jump on the defense quick, whether it be bunting, getting a walk, taking the next bag, that's what Vandy offense is really all about."
As a sophomore in 2018, Bleday led the Commodores in batting average (.368), on-base percentage (.494) and slugging percentage (.511). He missed 22 games due to an oblique injury, but ended last season with a 10-game hitting streak and a 28-game streak of reaching base.
Bleday's power should continue to improve leading up to the Draft. After hitting four home runs for Vanderbilt last year, he then belted five homers in the wooden-bat Cape Cod League last summer.
The Commodores outfielder got all of his second-inning homer on Saturday. Per Statcast™, Bleday's home run went a projected 438 feet with an exit velocity of 107.5 mph and a 28-degree launch angle.
"It felt good," Bleday said. "I was looking for something over the plate, and I finally got one."
Vanderbilt, which is ranked No. 1 in the D1Baseball Top 25 rankings, has opened the 2019 season with a pair of impressive victories, avenging their 2015 College World Series loss against Virginia and beating No. 25 Cal State Fullerton. The Commodores will look to go 3-0 at the MLB4 tournament when they wrap up against No. 19 TCU on Sunday afternoon.
"It's been beautiful," Bleday said. "Having this good weather, good atmosphere, unbelievable fields, whether it's here or the training fields we're warming up on, it's been an unbelievable experience."
TCU notches first win in nightcap
After getting shut out in the first game of the MLB4 tournament on Friday, TCU's offense broke out on Saturday night.
The Horned Frogs pounded out 14 hits in a 9-4 win over Virginia for their first win of the season. They'll look to leave Arizona with a winning record when they take on Vanderbilt on Sunday.
The top of TCU's order led its offensive attack, as leadoff hitter Porter Brown and No. 2 hitter Josh Watson each collected four hits. Watson had a team-high three RBIs, Brown had a pair of RBIs and No. 3 hitter Austin Henry went 2-for-5 with two RBIs.
Virginia freshman starter Mike Vasil took the loss in his first career start, allowing five earned runs over 3 2/3 innings. Vasil was MLB Pipeline's No. 25 2018 Draft prospect, before he withdrew his name from consideration and opted to honor his commitment to the Cavaliers.
Jake Rill is a reporter/producer for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JakeDRill.