Major League Draft Preview: Auburn

Taking a look at Auburn players and signees that could be taken in the 2008 Amateur Baseball Draft.

Auburn, Ala.--While Auburn awaits word on its new baseball coach, the rest of the baseball world is put on hold Thursday and Friday as the Amateur Baseball Draft takes place at Disney's Wide World of Sports beginning at 1 p.m. Several current Auburn players and signees will be waiting patiently for their names to be called and the results could have a big impact on the Tigers in the future.

Ranked 55th in the nation by Baseball America, pitcher Tyler Stovall from Hokes Bluff High will likely be the first Auburn connection off the board on Thursday. The all-time winningest pitcher in Alabama history, Stovall is a hard-throwing lefty with a good breaking ball and is the kind of player major league teams covet. As a senior he led Hokes Bluff to its fifth consecutive title with a 12-1 record. He finished with 170 strikeouts and an ERA of just 0.99 in 78 innings.

Pitcher Luke Greinke should be taken in the first half of the draft.

Junior outfielder Mike Bianucci will likely be the first current Auburn player off the board as he's rated 176 by Baseball America among all players. Drafted in the 23rd round as a sophomore by the Los Angeles Angels, Bianucci returned for his junior season and hit .321 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI. Barring something strange happening Bianucci will leave his career as one of Auburn's top home run hitters with 35 in his three-year career. He's expected to be selected within the first five rounds.

After the first two things could get cloudy for Auburn prospects as Luke Greinke, Taylor Thompson, Evan Crawford and Bryan Woodall are all eligible to be drafted as is shortstop Matt Hall from among the position players. Of the group Thompson may be the first called because of his tremendous upside. Greinke wasn't drafted last season, but that is expected to change even with a subpar junior year. Greinke is expected to turn pro and not return in 2009. Both Crawford and Woodall did a solid job on the mound for the Tigers out of the bullpen and could get a late look. As a left-hander Crawford may get a chance to move up in the draft, but inconsistency will likely keep him out of the top 15 rounds. Woodall is projected as a late round selection.

Hall is a talented defensive player that may not get drafted as high because of a lack of power at the plate.

For Hall it's a crapshoot in every sense of the word. Playing in a league with projected early round selections Gordon Beckham from Georgia and Reese Havens from South Carolina, Hall was overshadowed at times but his defense was stellar all season long. Despite some struggles at times at the plate, finishing at .279 with four homers and 27 RBI, Hall had one of the best seasons ever for an Auburn shortstop in the field and committed just five errors all year long. He's projected somewhere in the middle rounds, likely between 10-20.

Among the high school signees other than Stovall, the Tigers may escape without much damage as big right-hander Adam Purdy from Pell City is expected to be selected but not likely in the first 10 rounds. The same is true of Steven Upchurch, a righty pitcher from Faith Academy in Mobile. A player that has a chance because of upside to be taken is 6-7 pitcher Dexter Price from Air Academy High in Colorado. As a senior he was 9-0 with a 3.42 ERA and added eight home runs at the plate.


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