Auburn comes into the 2021 just inside the top 25 according to D1 Baseball’s top 25. Head coach Butch Thompson brought the Tigers to the postseason three years in a row before the 2020 season. He’ll be hoping to make it back for the fourth time in his Auburn tenure.
2019 Record: 38-28 (14-16)
2020 Record: 13-5
Perfect Game Recruiting Class: 43rd
The 2020 season was off to a little bit of a rocky start heading in to SEC play. The Tigers had just dropped midweeks to Georgia Tech and Wofford. Earlier in the season they’d suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of UCF.
Auburn had little to show on the resume in ways of big wins. But they did boast the SEC’s top batting average and led the conference in doubles. 1st round pick Tanner Burns led a very strong rotation that was shaping up well for SEC ball.
One player returns from last year’s rotation in lefthander Jack Owen. Owen had the Saturday games last year and finished 3-1 with a 3.43 ERA. He’s had ample experience over his three years starting for Auburn. This should be valuable for the other two guys in the rotation who have little starting experience.
One guy who could benefit from that is Richard Fitts. A former walk-on, Fitts has developed into potentially a first-round draft pick this spring. His fastball has improved in velocity into the upper 90’s and he’s added a good changeup. He’s expected to take over Tanner Burns Friday spot in the rotation.
This leaves fourth year Cody Greenhill. Greenhill has worked exclusively out of the bullpen in his first three years and posted very impressive numbers. He has a career 2.59 ERA and 19 saves. He’s used to pitching multiple innings out of the bullpen, so if he can make the transition he should be a viable third option.
The hitting was superb last year and the Tigers only lose two every day guys from that lineup. Five of those returning hit over .300 last season and another five players have Omaha experience from being on the 2019 team.
Rankin Woley leads all of the returners with a .412 average. The fifth year senior has the most experience in the lineup dating back to his freshman year at LSU in 2017. He’s been an RBI machine his first two years with Auburn and should continue that trend.
Infielder Ryan Bliss should be right there with Rankin in the core of the lineup. Bliss has shown flashes of power but brings a lot of speed as well on the basepaths. Fellow infielder Brody Moore brings similar speed. Thompson has dubbed Moore their most improved player this fall.
High school SS Cole Foster currently sits outside the top 150 draft prospects.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) February 16, 2020
Auburn’s top recruit Cole Foster is another name to look out for. Foster is heralded for his bat and was the third-best position player to forgo the draft and play college ball per Prep Baseball Report. There’s not a clear position cut out for him just yet but expect him to get some starts early on.
Similar to Georgia, Auburn is reliant on bullpen arms to make the jump and solidify their rotation. The upside is that Fitts has a very high ceiling and could propel the Tigers into the national seed conversation. This conversation is significantly more realistic if Greenhill can make a seamless transition as well.
Aside from the rotation the bats are very strong. The losses aren’t too concerning when you have a plethora of bats capable of hitting over .300. The Tigers are certainly a threat in the West and could be in position to host if they can meet expectations.
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