Baseball Takes A Hit But Gets Good News

Coach John Pawlowski talks about the signing deadline passing last night and how the Tigers fared.

Auburn, Ala.--Following a very successful 2010 season that included winning the SEC Western Division title, coach John Pawlowski and the Auburn baseball program have endured a long summer of waiting and watching as a large group of current Tigers and signees went about the process of listening to offers from professional teams following the MLB Amateur Draft. With the deadline coming at 11 p.m. local time on Monday night, Pawlowski said it was a long day but one that ended pretty well for his program.

"You look at the summer and you spend so much of the time on the guys you had recruited before," Pawlowski said. "We had five incoming players that were drafted and 11 off our team. That's a total of 16 guys that we were concerned about the whole summer. I believe nine of the guys off our team had the ability to come back. You go through that whole process and it's every day wondering what's going to happen. Nobody really knows. It comes down to last night at 11 p.m. wondering what you have.

"Then you throw a guy in like Tony Caldwell," he added. "He went up to the Cape (Cape Cod League) and had a terrific summer. Teams were talking to him about signing as a free agent. You always have to be on guard about what is going to happen. It's an unbelievable process to go through. I'm pleased with where we are as far as the players that are returning and the new guys that are going to be on board with us."

Despite losing a pair of seniors in Ryan Jenkins and Austin Hubbard as well as juniors Grant Dayton, Brian Fletcher, Stephen Kohlscheen, Trent Mummey, Hunter Morris and Cole Nelson to professional baseball, Auburn isn't going to be left without talent in the upperclassmen ranks as the All-SEC DH Kevin Patterson will return this year as will outfielder Justin Fradejas, Bradley Hendrix and Caldwell. Pawlowski said those four will provide some punch for the Tigers as well as a lot of leadership with their return.

"You look at Kevin Patterson," Pawlowski said. "He's got tremendous ability and played very well last year. Offensively I saw him make some great strides. He's very close to graduating. That's a high priority. He wants to get better. He's a great leader and a guy we're excited about coming back.

"Justin Fradejas is one of our best athletes," he added. "He can play center field and run around out there with the best of them. We all know he can bunt and handle the short game a little bit. It's great to have an athlete like that.

Bradley Hendrix showed some tremendous flashes last year. I think he's got a chance to really turn the corner. All of them have ability and all of them came back for the right reasons, to be part of our program and part of Auburn and to be part of continuing to build a foundation for a winning program."

Drafted in the 18th round by the Atlanta Braves, South Forsyth (Ga.) shortstop Zach Alvord got a late run by the Braves before deciding to following his dreams of playing at Auburn. Prattville native and Gulf Coast CC standout pitcher Austin Morris turned down a late offer after being drafted in the 16th round by Milwaukee as did outfielder Jay Gonzalez, a 27th round selection by Boston.

"You look at his (Morris) junior college numbers and they are phenomenal," Pawlowski said. "You know it's in there and that he's a competitor. I think he brings a lot of experience from probably the best collegiate junior college league in the country. He's somebody I think is going to have a shot to compete for a spot in the rotation.

"Zach Alvord is an infielder who has tremendous bat speed. He's got potential offensively and to be an impact player. He played on the best travel teams, the best summer ball, the highest level of competition. He's got tremendous upside and ability.

"Jay Gonzalez is a speedy outfielder," Pawlowski said. "He brings some speed and athleticism to our outfield. All three of those guys have the ability to be impact guys."

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