2019 Preseason Top 25 Preview: No. 17 Auburn
Last Year: 43-23 (15-15 SEC); reached super regionals.
Final Ranking: No. 17.
Head Coach (record at school): Butch Thompson (103-82, three years).
Top 100 Draft Prospects: SS Will Holland (No. 18), RHP Davis Daniel (No. 94).
The Good News: Auburn is coming off the program’s best season in 20 years, reaching super regionals for the first time since 1999. The Tigers ultimately fell to Florida on a walk-off, extra-innings home run in the decisive third game in Gainesville, ending their season in dramatic fashion. From that team, Auburn returns shortstop Will Holland, who projects as a first-round pick this June. Also back are the Tigers' trio of Freshmen All-Americans—righthander Tanner Burns, infielder Edouard Julien and outfielder Stephen Williams. Auburn brought in its third straight Top 25 recruiting class and got a boost when righthander Davis Daniel, who was a draft-eligible sophomore, opted to return to The Plains for his junior season.
The Bad News: The Tigers lost several key pieces from last year’s team, starting with ace Casey Mize, the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. Auburn must also replace five regulars from its lineup and reliable pitchers Calvin Coker and Andrew Mitchell. With those losses, Auburn will need some new players to step up. Some of the answers will come from this year’s recruiting class, highlighted by lefthander Garrett Wade, the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year, and infielder Ryan Bliss. But Auburn also needs some returners to take a step forward, such as Daniel, who was inconsistent in the rotation last spring but broke out after a move to the bullpen. If he and Burns can lock down the front of the rotation, Auburn will still be formidable on the mound, even without Mize.
Player To Know: Tanner Burns, RHP.
The highest ranked high school player in the 2017 draft class to make it to college, Burns immediately stepped into Auburn’s rotation and had a Freshman All-American season in 2018. He is coming off a strong summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and is one of the top prospects in the 2020 draft. With Mize gone, Auburn needs Burns to take on a bigger role and lead its pitching staff for the next two years.
Path To Omaha: Auburn has a high ceiling, but to get there, it’s going to need its young players to show that they can carry the load on their own. Burns, Daniel and righthander Cody Greenhill can anchor the pitching staff, but the Tigers need to find some consistent arms beyond that trio. Offensively, Holland, Julien and Williams form a strong core to build around, but they’ll need some help, especially to set the table. After getting off to fast starts the last couple of years thanks to a healthy slate of home games, Auburn is taking on a more difficult schedule this season. Between that and the turnover, the Tigers are likely to face some early season growing pains. But coach Butch Thompson is sure to get the most out of his team by the postseason and, if it all comes together, Auburn could again be playing deep into June.
Eastern League Top 20 Prospects For 2019
Looking for potent arms? The Eastern League had plenty. Nate Pearson, Casey Mize and Matt Manning are among those ranked.
|C||Matt Scheffler||Jr. (Transfer -- Pierce (Wash.) JC|
|2B||Ryan Bliss||Fr. (HS -- LaGrange, Ga.)|
|LF||Everett Lau||Jr. (Transfer -- JC of San Mateo (Calif.)|
|CF||Kason Howell||Fr. (HS -- Argyle, Texas)|
|DH||Rankin Woley||Jr. (Transfer -- Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.) JC.|
|LHP||Garrett Wade||Fr. (HS -- Hartselle, Ala.)|