The MLB Draft starts tonight -- coverage begins at 6 p.m. on MLB Network -- and runs through Saturday. Technically, this is the "First-Year Player Draft" because MLB will hold the "Rule 5" draft (the one happening tonight is the "Rule 4" draft) later in the year. The MLB Draft, historically, has usually been a talent killer for the Tigers.
For the months leading up to the draft you hear all about the potential prospects that have signed with Auburn to play baseball only to get drafted and then never set foot on the Plains ever again. David Dahl and Addison Russell were the big losses last year. Jake Peavy and Colby Rasmus are some notable coulda-woulda-shouldas from years past. In fact, it's pretty rare (or has been rare in years past) for Auburn to hold on a guy who is drafted high in the MLB Draft. Hunter Morris and Zach Alvord are probably the only names that come to mind.
SB Nation has a pretty nice rundown of the MLB Draft and how it works from a baseball perspective. It's a good refresher course because toward the later rounds (and the sandwich-round picks), it gets pretty confusing when it comes to draft order and who is picking where and why.
Here are the basics for the Auburn baseball fan following along the MLB Draft:
- The draft pool consists of really three categories of players: high school seniors, junior college players, and four-year college juniors and seniors.
- Of course, there are exceptions to this. If a guy is a sophomore and has turned 21, then he is eligible.
- JUCO guys are eligible no matter what year they are.
- Declaring for the MLB Draft does not affect a player's eligibility. Unlike the NFL and NBA, you don't really "declare" for the MLB Draft.
- However, if a college player has dropped out of school he has to apply for the MLB Draft by writing the Commissioner's office before March 20.
- The draft consists of 40 rounds (not including supplemental rounds), and I can tell you from experience and as a guy who has listened to the draft for the past three or so years, those later rounds are pretty boring and mundane. The glitz and glamour of the early rounds, really just the first night, fades pretty quickly and you are left listening to essentially a glorified conference call.
- Every player should have a number assigned to him in the draft pool. I'm not really sure if these numbers are public.
- The deadline to sign with a club is midnight ET on August 15.
- A player who is not selected can become a free agent, even if he has not finished school, and can sign with a club. This is a pretty tough way to make a club. However, Ty Kelley did it for Auburn and the Angels and he's been working out pretty well in Anaheim.
So those are the basics about the draft and how it relates to college baseball. The Auburn focus is a bit different. Since Auburn doesn't publish an early signing list, it's a little tougher to tell who could be coming to Auburn out of high school. Still, here's a list of confirmed signees that could hear their names called:
Anfernee Grier (OF/Russell County HS/Phenix City)
Keegan Thompson (RHP/Cullman)
Kevin Davis (RHP/T.R. Miller HS/Brewton)
Brett Binning (SS/Monte Vista HS/Danville, Calif.)
Blake Logan (C/Muscle Shoals)
Daniel Robert (OF/Briarwood Christian/Birmingham)
Damon Haecker (SS/Lake Brantley HS/Altamonta Springs, Fla.)
Tyler Lynn (OF/Smiths Station HS/Phenix City)
Bailey Chesser (RHP/Pinson Valley HS/Pinson)
Connor Short (SS/Hoover)
Jacob Milliman (RHP/Pensacola St. JC/Millbrook)
The three guys at the top (Grier, Thompson, Davis) are probably the biggest draft casualties Auburn will have to worry about.
Grier is ranked as the No. 38 player in America and has been mocked as high as the third round and has projected as either a second basemen or outfielder. Davis has been on a lot of radars for a long time and has slowly turned heads down in Brewton. There is some minor concern that his struggles this past year for T.R. Miller may hurt his draft stock, but at the end of the day, talent is talent. Thompson (if he comes to Auburn) would be a major pull for the Tigers. The 2013 Gatorade Player of the Year, Thompson's original stance of attending Auburn (90 percent) has slowly eroded over time.
The elephant in the room for all of these guys is that Auburn doesn't have a coach right now. The Tigers can't convince a guy to attend the school when they don't even know who their coach will be. Now, this could work in Auburn's favor slightly if it can find the right guy. However, the longer the Tigers wait, the less likely they will be able to hold on to guys taken in the MLB Draft.
Those are the guys who could come to Auburn. What about the guys already at Auburn? Here's a list of the draft-eligible players on the 2013 roster:
Garrett Cooper, 1B (Senior)
Cullen Wacker, OF (Senior)
Mitchell Self, IF (Senior)
Kody Ortman, C/IF (Senior)
Ryan Tella, OF (Junior) *
Hunter Kelley, OF (Junior)
Reid Carter, P (Junior)
Terrance Dedrick, P (Junior)
Blake Austin, C (Junior)
Patrick Savage, 1B (Junior)
Bobby Andrews, OF (Junior)
Conner Kendrick, P (Junior)
Dan Glevenyak, SS (Junior)
Jay Wade, P (Junior)
Michael O'Neal, P (Junior)
Dillon Ortman, P (Junior)
Damek Tomscha, 3B (Junior)*
Will Kendall, P (Junior)
Chase Williamson, P (Sophomore)
Tomscha and Tella are the only two guys who were previously drafted. Tella was selected in the 11th round last year but decided to return to Auburn. Tomscha has been previously drafted in 2012 and 2011. Not many current Tigers are getting much pre-draft publicity but Conner Kendrick came in at No. 313 on Baseball America's top-500 prospects list. Of the signees, Kevin Davis is No. 343, Keegan Thompson is No. 186, and Anfernee Grier is No. 379.
If I had to guess, I would expect Cooper, O'Neal, Wacker, Tella, Kendrick, Tomscha, and probably Dedrick to hear their names called on Saturday (possibly late Friday). Whether or not O'Neal, Tella, Kendrick, Tomscha and Dedrick would opt to return depends on when they're picked.
One final note on the MLB Draft, keep an ear out for former Auburn players, too. Jay Gonzalez, Zach Alvord (Tampa U) and Brooks Beisner (Florida Gulf Coast) are all eligible and could be drafted this year.
I'll be following along with the draft most of the day on Friday and Saturday and tweeting out any Auburn connections as they come across.