AUBURN | Six of Auburn’s 2017 baseball signees enrolled in school this summer with the remaining half dozen expected to report in just over a month.
The newcomers include right-handed pitcher/infielder Tanner Burns, right-handed pitcher/infielder Cody Greenhill, infielder/right-handed pitcher Cade Evans, right-handed pitcher Ryan Hoerter, infielder Edouard Julien and outfielder Judd Ward.
Burns, the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year and Alabama Mr. Baseball, was 10-1 with a 0.88 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 64.0 innings as a senior. He also batted .467 with 10 doubles, 16 home runs and 46 RBI.
“We're getting the national high school player of the year that says I want to be a major league baseball player, but I want to be an Auburn baseball player first. That's powerful,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said.
Wade Rackley/Auburn athletics
Burns, Greenhill and Hoerter are all possibilities to win a spot in Auburn’s starting rotation. Thompson also plans to give Burns, Greenhill and Evans an opportunity to be two-way players.
“Those are 31 home runs in Alabama high school that those boys (Burns and Greenhill) bring to the table,” Thompson said. “We think they have a great future on the mound but those are a couple of right-handers with pop and we're going to let them hit.”
“Evans, he added, “is throwing a ball 93 mph off the mound.”
Greenhill, the 5A Alabama Player and Pitcher of the Year, was 8-2 with a 1.11 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 57 innings. He hit .317 with three doubles, nine home runs, 24 runs scored and 34 RBI as a senior.
Signing two-way players is a plus for Auburn, which is in a state that doesn’t provide any lottery scholarship money that other states such as Georgia, Florida and Louisiana can use to supplement the 11.7 scholarships allotted to NCAA baseball.
Jack Owen, who is scheduled to enroll in August, is another of the 2017 signees that will have an opportunity to be a two-way player for the Tigers.
“I think it allows us to continue to build our best ball club. With the challenges we have that helps us compete,” Thompson said. “Owen is an outfielder but he's coming in as a left-handed pitcher. We think he is an unbelievable field to pitch lefty, but he's a fluid outfielder.”
Auburn lost just one of its 14 signees to the draft. Junior college left-handed pitcher Evan Steele signed with the Kansas City Royals after being selected 73rd overall. Another signee, left-handed pitcher Dylan Gentry, was released from his NLI.
The remaining six signees -- Owen, right-handed pitcher Carter Bowen, right-handed pitcher Rhett Fetner, left-handed pitcher Peyton Glavine, infielder Brendan Venter and catcher Steven Williams will enroll for the start of fall semester Aug. 21.
Getting in 12 of 14 signees from a class that Perfect Game ranked No. 6 nationally along with several key players returning for their senior seasons including Josh Anthony, Luke Jarvis, Jay Estes, Conor Davis and Andrew Mitchell has Thompson excited about the future of his program.
“It just couldn't have gone any better,” Thompson said. “For us to have an opportunity with even our current roster, with a Josh Anthony, Luke Jarvis, knowing Calvin Coker turned down six figures to come back to school. Some amazing things happened in the draft that won't be made public.
“I think we're strengthened by our returning players and guys not just running out for nothing, they've put some value to it, and then this incoming class, there's so many freshmen and this is our future. Our future could have been picked apart and it wasn’t.”