Baseball Draft Likely to Impact Tigers

An analysis of the draft status of current and potential future Auburn baseball players is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Thursday is a day of anxious excitement for Auburn baseball fans as the annual Amateur Baseball Draft takes place in Orlando, Fla.

Four current Tigers as well as several more future Tigers could be drafted, making the day a nervous one for everyone involved, even the teams selecting.

That is because the baseball draft is unlike any other sports draft because of one word, "signability." A word that has become part of the everyday vocabulary for baseball teams, it literally means the ability to sign a drafted player.

Unlike most sports, in which players don't have options to return to school, the amateur baseball draft has the lure of school to contend with when drafting a player. That means they must be confident they can sign a player to a contract if he's drafted in the early rounds. If not it becomes a wasted pick for the organization, something that doesn't go over well.

One player who likely won't have to worry about making the choice between baseball and school is Auburn junior catcher Josh Donaldson. Undrafted out of Faith Academy in Mobile coming out of high school, Donaldson has turned into one of the country's best college players and is expected to be a high draft choice on Thursday. Rated as the number 74 draft-eligible prospect by Baseball America, Donaldson could go as high as the first round, but is thought to be a bargain pick in the compensatory round sandwiched between rounds one and two. That round features 34 picks in addition to the 30 in the first round. Prediction: Sandwich Pick-Round Two

Sophomore Mike Bianucci led the Tigers in home runs last season.

In addition to Donaldson, several Tiger underclassmen are projected as possible draft selections with sophomore left fielder Mike Bianucci the obvious choice as the next Auburn player off the board. A powerful hitter and improving defensive player in left field, Bianucci is a draft eligible sophomore who could get a look as high as the third round. Injuries in both of his first two seasons have hampered Bianucci somewhat and could drop him some in the draft. Prediction: Rounds 4-6

Another current Auburn player who could be selected is pitcher Brett Butts. A starter in his sophomore year in 2006, Butts moved to the bullpen as a junior and excelled for the Tigers. Showing a good fastball and the ability to get guys out, Butts was Auburn's most consistent performer out of the pen. Because of that he'll likely get a look somewhere in the middle rounds. Prediction: Rounds 10-15

Butts came on strong as a junior for the Tigers.

Auburn's last possibility as an underclassman is sophomore Luke Greinke Greinke is probably considered more of a pro prospect as a pitcher rather than an outfielder, but was able to pitch very little last season. That has probably dropped him down the boards somewhat but his family name alone is worth a draft spot. Prediction: Rounds 20-25

The drama doesn't end with current Auburn players as several signees are projected to be high draft picks on Thursday and it will depend on the amount of money offered in a contract that will ultimately determine who winds up in orange and blue. The top prospect is big first baseman/catcher Kevin Patterson from Oak Mountain High in Birmingham. The 67th player overall, Patterson is a good student who has let teams know he has no problems attending Auburn if the money isn't right. The 6-4, 220-pounder is fully healthy after breaking the hammate bone during the spring and should be an early draft pick. Prediction: Rounds 1-3

Kevin Patterson is a physically imposing hitter who has big-time power potential.

Another signee who could be taken high in the draft is Grissom (Huntsville) infielder Hunter Morris. The National Offensive Player of the Year as named by PlayStation, Morris hit .453 with 13 home runs and 41 RBI for Grissom as a senior and is a physical player who could help the Tigers right away. He is expected to be a high draft choice, but is also a strong student. That could factor in his draft position. Prediction: Rounds 2-5

The signee who improved his position more than anyone this season is outfielder D. J. Jones from Gulf Shores. Named by PlayStation as the National Player of the Year, Jones hit .458 with 16 home runs and 49 RBI. A dominating offensive player who can run and hit, Jones is somewhat of an enigma as he's high in some projections while lower in others. A good guess is he's somewhere in between with the possibility of jumping very high in the right situation. Prediction: Rounds 3-6

Another possible draft choice out of the signee class is infielder Brian Fletcher from Starr's Mill High in Fayetteville, Ga. His junior year he hit 28 home runs between high school and summer baseball and added to that total with 11 home runs as a senior. The 6-1, 185-pounder is a physical player that would bring some pop to the Auburn offense. Prediction: Rounds 7-10

In the end the Tigers are looking for things to balance out following the draft. The player in the group with the least leverage, Donaldson is likely the only sure thing not to be on Auburn's roster next season. For everyone else involved it comes down to money. The Tigers are hoping the price won't be right where the other draft prospects are involved.

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