Auburn, Ala.--Making a run deep into the NCAA Regional in Tallahassee before bowing out to Florida State, Coach Butch Thompson and the Auburn Tigers are looking to finish the year on a good note when the Major League Baseball Draft begins on Monday. With several current and future Tigers expected to be taken early, the day will be an anxious one for Thompson.
The first order of business comes with perhaps the first name to come off the board for Auburn in signee Tanner Burns from Decatur. Ranked the No. 38 draft prospect by Baseball America, Burns put up huge numbers this season on the way to being named the Alabama Player of the Year.
One of the top two-way prospects in the country and expected to continue that role if he gets to Auburn, Burns was 10-1 on the mound with a 0.88 ERA and also hit .467 with 16 home runs, 10 doubles and 46 RBI.
With his brother Link currently a manager on Auburn’s baseball team, Burns has a strong bond with the Tigers, but being drafted really high could make things interesting with him. He noted that at the moment he is just trying to enjoy things and see what happens.
"It's crazy that Link and I always grew up watching the draft," Burns said. "Now that my name is being mentioned it's kind of crazy. It's crazy that the time is here. I guess I'll just take it as it comes. I guess everybody wants to play professional baseball and playing for any major league team would be fun. I'm not particular to a team."
Close with Thompson and many of the players on the current team, Burns said having the option to come to Auburn to play for the Tigers makes this a no-lose situation in his mind.
"It's awesome," Burns said. "Him and I have gotten really, really close over the past year. Knowing him, he cares for me and wants me to make the right decision. I ate lunch with him a few days ago and he told me at the end of the day he wants me to do what is good for me and my family.
"Even teammates at Auburn have reached out to me, especially Davis Daniel. He texted me and said he would be pulling for me whatever I do. It's good having all of the people at Auburn that have support for me."
With a history of producing draft picks on the mound during his time as a pitching coach, Thompson doesn't push his players to their limits at the expense of just winning games. That showed this season when he sat both Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize with arm soreness instead of keeping them in the rotation. Burns said that's something that stuck out to him about the team this year and makes him even more excited that he signed with Auburn.
"It just shows how good of a pitching coach he is," Burns said. "He cares about winning, but he also cares about the players. He's not selfish as a coach. Seeing Casey and Keegan explode, I know that when I go to Auburn he's going to take care of me."
Currently scheduled to attend Camp War Eagle on June 23 provided he doesn't sign with a pro team, Burns is preparing for what could be a wild two weeks starting with draft day on Monday.