Cubs Draft Donaldson, 7 Tigers Chosen

The first Auburn University player selected in the 2007 draft was taken by Chicago and six of his teammates were also drafted.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn University junior Josh Donaldson, who was selected by the Chicago Cubs as a supplemental pick, was the 48th overall prospect selected in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft on Thursday.

One of AU's top signees is also an early draft pick and on day two of the draft another half dozen Tigers were selected.

The catcher and infielder is the highest pick off the Auburn baseball team since Gabe Gross was the 15th player selected in 2001 by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Donaldson, who is expected to sign with the Cubs, hit .349 to lead the Tigers season. He also led the team in runs batted in with 54 while adding 11 homers and 17 stolen bases.

Josh Donaldson has good speed and solid power.

Donaldson has a .307 career batting average in three seasons with 28 homers.

Auburn signee Hunter Morris, a 6-4, 200-pounder who just finished his senior year at Grissom High in Huntsville, was drafted as the 84th overall pick by the Boston Red Sox. A third baseman with power, he hits left and throws right.

Six more Auburn players were drafted in day two. The group includes Russell Dixon (7th round/Houston Astros), Bruce Edwards (11th round/San Francisco Giants), Brett Butts (19th round/Atlanta Braves), Mike Bianucci (23rd round/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), Philip Stringer (24th round/Astros) and Josh Blake (35th round/Arizona Diamondbacks.

Dixon missed the entire 2007 season year due to a thumb injury after averaging .303 for two seasons. In 107 games (93 starts), he hit 27 doubles, two triples and five home runs and drove in 60 runs, playing mostly in right as a sophomore after spending most of his time as the designated hitter in his freshman campaign.

"It's been a whirlwind the past couple of days. I had kind of given up (after the sixth round) and was about to walk out of the room when my dad told me to stick around for one more pick and sure enough the Astros picked me," Dixon said. "It's awesome that it's my hometown team, too, after not even playing an inning this year."

Bruce Edwards bounced back from a disappointing junior season with a strong performance as a senior.

Edwards, who came to Auburn to play football before changing sports, was a four-year player for the Tigers and worked his way into the Auburn record books with his speed, stealing 57 bases over his four-year career, sixth all-time at AU, including 28 this past season, which is the third-highest total in a single-season on the Plains. As a senior he hit a career-high .328 and scored 53 runs in 52 games, making 50 starts in center field.

"This is something I have waited a lifetime for," Edwards said. "I have worked my entire lifetime for this and I am just so happy to get an opportunity. I really didn't think it was going to be the Giants but now that it is, I am real happy it's the Giants. I am going to wait to hear where they want me to go and then go out there and work my hardest and give it all I got."

Butts, a junior relief pitcher, led the Tigers in saves (six), innings by a reliever (54.0) and appearances (26). His 2.83 ERA was third-lowest on the pitching staff as he went 2-2 on the year, striking out 54 and walking just 23. "I am just glad it's over with," he said. "I have been stressing about it forever. Since the season ended I didn't know what to do. I have been a Braves fan forever and it is a little more special to be drafted by the hometown team."

Bianucci has hit 22 career home runs for Auburn in 92 career games. A career .343 hitter, he hit a team-best 14 homers this year and drove in 51 runs, hitting clean-up in 45 contests. The sophomore also led the team with a .640 slugging percentage in 2007 as he had 26 extra-base hits on the year. Over the course of two seasons, he has never had a stretch longer than eight games between homers.

Stringer played the last three years of his career at Auburn after transferring from Tulane. As a senior he played in 41 games, starting 24, and hit .198. Considered a solid glove for the Tigers, he committed a career-low nine errors this past season.

"I am real excited for the opportunity to go play ball and enjoy it," Stringer said. "It's a great honor to be picked up by the team that I grew up watching. I am a Houston kid and it's real neat to get picked by your hometown team. That's always the goal."

Blake appeared in 12 games for the Tigers this season, compiling a 5.40 ERA in 21.2 innings. In 22 career appearances for Auburn after transferring from Arizona State, he has gone 2-3 with a save, striking out 22.

"I think it's a great opportunity and I am just real grateful that they took a shot on me," Blake said. "I am thrilled that I have an opportunity to play professional baseball."

Prior to the draft, fifth-year senior Chris Dennis signed with the Texas Rangers, who had drafted him in the 40th round of the 2006 Major League baseball Draft. Dennis went 3-3 with two saves and a 3.66 ERA in 23 relief appearances for Auburn this season after spending most of the 2006 season as a starter. He heads to Arizona this Sunday before reporting to Spokane (short season) on the 15th.

"I am ready to play. I have been chomping at the bit because it has been three weeks since I last played," Dennis said.


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