MERRILLVILLE — Andrean pitcher Michael Doolin raked in honor after honor this season, from Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year to the IHSAA Mental Attitude Award for Class 3A.
Now, Doolin adds The Times' Lake County Athlete of the Year award to his stock. The only thing missing? Selection in the MLB Draft.
That could come sooner than later. While Doolin's large signing bonus requirements led MLB teams to pass on him this June, the Vanderbilt commit hopes three years in Nashville will boost his stock from this season's third- or fourth-round projections.
“The draft process was kind of crazy for me, because that was never really something that I thought was realistic,” Doolin said. “In the back of my head, I kind of knew that no matter what happened I think Vandy was the best place for me as a student and then the future of baseball, as well.”
Doolin enters Vanderbilt, the reigning NCAA champions, with three plus-plus high school pitches, according to Andrean coach Dave Pishkur: a fastball that reached 95 miles per hour this season plus a curveball and slider.
Although Doolin evolved into a power pitcher at the prep level, that isn't his strongest asset as a prospect. Pishkur said he saw Doolin ranked as high as No. 1 among amateur pitchers in the 2019 draft.
Doolin issued just 12 walks in 77 innings this season. Known for his determination after falling behind early in counts, Doolin was never afraid to try to paint any corner of the zone, even when on the verge of walking batters.
“There's a lot of guys who can throw hard and have good secondary stuff, but they really don't know where the ball is going,” Pishkur said. “But if you know where it's going and a hitter has a weakness or you want to pitch a guy a certain way, he's able to do that, where a lot of other guys are just gonna throw it hard and maybe center the plate up as opposed to commanding the strike zone. ... That's what makes him so unique, plus the fact that he competes out there and he has a lot of confidence in himself.”
Doolin left for Vanderbilt last Sunday and will work with the Commodores' strength coaches this summer. The program called shortly after Andrean's Class 3A state championship win over Edgewood to congratulate him and ask that he stops throwing for now to preserve his arm.
Once fall practices begin, two starting spots will be on the line. Vanderbilt welcomes in top recruit Jack Leiter — Perfect Game's No. 15 draft prospect for 2019 — and returns two starters. While Leiter could be the favorite to earn the No. 3 spot, a midweek starter slot will be open.
“I think he's probably going into Vanderbilt with better control, better command than probably any of the other incoming freshmen,” Pishkur said. “Now, that doesn't mean his velocity is as good as some of theirs, or maybe all his pitches aren't as good as some.”
Pishkur identified two areas of improvement for Doolin as he works toward the 2022 draft: His velocity and approach. At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Doolin could easily get up to 225 or 230, Pishkur said. If that happens, further increased velocity should follow.
At the high school level, Doolin often had the luxury of relaxing when the bottom of the order came up. Pishkur said Doolin generally won't be able to do that in college and will need to bring intensity on every pitch, but he'll also have access to scouting reports with far more detail.
Doolin said he hopes to start as a freshman, either in a midweek role or on Sundays. That isn't his top priority, however.
The way Doolin sees it, he has placed his development in the hands of Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin and will do whatever it takes to improve. He hopes wins will follow.
“The next goal is a national championship ring,” Doolin said. “So if I don't contribute as much as I'd like next year but we win a national championship, I'll be as happy as can be.”