While the Auburn Tigers are without a coach at the moment following the firing of Coach John Pawlowski, it's still a big day in the life of the program with as many as seven current and future possible Tigers expected to be taken over the course of the next two days.
Among the current players, junior pitcher Conner Kendrick is likely to hear his name called sometime during rounds 8-12 after a solid first season on the Plains. A left-hander with above-average stuff, Kendrick finished the 2013 season with a 5-3 record and an ERA of just 2.13. Showing that he can pitch in both a starting role and as a reliever should prove to be huge for the Gulf Shores native.
Another junior that should hear his name called is center fielder Ryan Tella. Deciding to come back after being drafted in the 11th round last year by the San Francisco Giants, Tella didn't have the kind of year he was hoping for as his average slumped to just .259. With good speed (14 stolen bases) and a great glove in center field, Tella could still be taken fairly high in the draft but he's likely to fall from his position last year.
Garrett Cooper had a big senior year at Auburn
Despite an up-and-down first season on the Plains, junior third baseman Damek Tomscha is also a player that should hear his name called in the first 15 rounds of the draft. A player that has already been drafted three times, most recently in the 19th round by the Chicago Cubs coming out of junior college last year, Tomscha's seven home runs and .274 average along with his strong arm should make him an attractive pick for a team looking for help on the corner.
One of the top defensive catchers in Auburn history, junior Blake Austin is yet another player hoping to hear good news this year in the draft. Hitting .290 with three home runs in 2013, Austin threw out 20 stolen base attempts this season and has 40 for his career. That is good enough for third in Auburn history behind Tony Caldwell and Casey Dunn, both of whom played four years.
Perhaps no player did as much to help his cause as senior first baseman Garrett Cooper in 2013. Leading the team with a .354 average, seven home runs, and 37 RBI and also a very good defensive first baseman, Cooper's added strength in his final year at Auburn paid dividends and should see him rewarded with an opportunity in the draft.
While the current players are always ones to keep an eye on, this year Auburn's signees are going to be front and center when the draft begins and could hold the keys to the future for the program if they make it to the Plains. Pitchers Keegan Thompson from Cullman and Kevin Davis from T.R. Miller (Brewton) along with athlete Anfernee Grier of Russell County could all be taken in the first 10 rounds of the draft with Grier perhaps the first off the board.
Rated as one of the nation's Top 50 players by Perfect Game, Grier hit .402 with seven home runs, 18 stolen bases, and 54 RBI this past season and has the ability to play the middle infield or the outfield on the next level.
Not to be outdone, Thompson hit .433 with nine home runs and 19 doubles at the plate. He also added a 9-2 record on the mound with a 1.25 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 73 innings pitched.
The MLB Draft kicks off at 6 p.m. central time on Thursday with the first two rounds taking place. It will carry over into Friday and Saturday through 40 rounds of completion.