Auburn, Ala.--Auburn junior center fielder Anfernee Grier capped off a huge year on Thursday night when he was selected in the MLB Amateur Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 39th overall selection. Coming off an all-american performance for the Tigers in 2016, Grier becomes the first Auburn player taken in the first round and compensation picks since AL MVP Josh Donaldson and the highest-drafted Auburn player since Gabe Gross was selected 15th overall in 2001.
The slot money available for the 39th pick is $1,658,600, but it's not the money that Grier has been dreaming of since first stepping on the baseball diamond. Working on every part of his game since playing shortstop at Russell County High, Grier has gone from a 39th round draft choice out of high school to the 39th pick overall and he said he couldn't be happier.
"I was at home with my family when they finally announced I had been drafted and I was speechless," Grier tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I couldn't really say anything. It was truly a great feeling, coming from getting drafted in the 39th round to being the 39th pick my junior year. It was just a blessing and I'm really just speechless and happy."
Putting up huge numbers as a junior when he was among the league leaders in just about every offensive category, Grier was an All-SEC selection and Golden Spikes Award semifinalist this season as well. Grier batted .366 on the season with 12 home runs and 41 RBI and finished the regular season ranked among the SEC leaders in average (4th), hits (87, 2nd), runs (56, 1st), homers (2nd), stolen bases (19, 7th) and total bases (137, 1st).
Those number show a player that has improved his game across the board, something Grier said came because of the work he put in but also because of the time he spent at Auburn. That time away from home allowed him to improve his game, but also to become a man.
"I would say the biggest thing is maturity for me," Grier said. "Coming out of high school I know I wasn't ready mentally to handle the life of pro ball. I probably wouldn't have made it long coming out of high school because I would have gotten tired of not being at home and being around my family.
"Coming to Auburn and being away from home has really made me more comfortable and prepared for the next level," he added. "I can deal with not seeing my mom and day every day and stuff like that. It was a great experience coming to Auburn and enjoying the college experience and growing as a baseball player and as a man."
Coaching Grier for just one season, but having to face him each of the last two years when he was the pitching coach at Mississippi State, Auburn Coach Butch Thompson has raved since last fall about Grier's work ethic and attention to detail. That's something that impressed him from day one and it's the way he'll leave Auburn said his coach.
“Anfernee is a homegrown talent from right down the road in Phenix City,” Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. “He came to Auburn and developed not only into first team All-American, but into the first pick of the night by the Diamondbacks.
“Anfernee had such a special season and has worked so hard,” he added. “It’s nice to see his character and hard work pay off. He and his family are so deserving of this MLB selection. We are thankful for their sincere support and we wish him all the best as he embarks on his dream to become a Major League player. He will be a part of the Auburn family forever.”
In conference play Grier homered four times with 17 RBI and added five stolen bases.
Those are impressive numbers considering he had just two home runs in his first two seasons with the Tigers. Throw in Grier's spectacular defense in center field and it's no surprise that he was drafted so high on Thursday.
Also on Thursday night, Auburn signee Alex Speas was drafted in the second round by the Texas Rangers with the 63rd selection overall. A power right-hander out of McEachern High in Powder Springs, Ga., Speas is expected to sign with the Rangers and begin his professional career.