First, it was Auburn basketball, and now it is Auburn baseball proving that a great season yields great success on draft day.
After a season full of unprecendented success and a run to the College World Series in June, eight Auburn players were selected in this year's MLB Draft, with a program-record four of them going in the first five rounds. The turnout resulted in twice as many draftees as last year and the second most in program history in a single draft.
The Auburn baseball program continues to distinguish itself as a top program in the country. Its four players selected in the top five rounds is tied for the second most in the country with CWS foe Arkansas, California, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech. Only Auburn's conference rival, Tennessee, had more with five players drafted in those rounds with five.
In addition, this is the seventh year in a row that Auburn has had a player picked in the first five rounds of the draft, topping the previous school record of five straight years.
One player was taken on day one with of the draft on Sunday night, three followed on Monday and four were taken on Tuesday to wrap things up. Here are the details of each pick:
RHP Blake Burkhalter | Round 2 pick 76- Atlanta Braves
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As the only Tiger taken on day one of the draft, Burkhalter not only led the way for the team in the draft, but Burkhalter set himself among the Auburn greats when he was taken by the hometown Braves.
On Sunday night, the Dothan, Alabama native became the highest draft pick out of Auburn's bullpen since 1993, when Scott Sullivan was taken 62nd overall. Those two sit behind just one other Auburn great, Gregg Olson, who was selected fourth overall by the Orioles in 1988.
With a 4-2 record, 3.89 ERA, 71 strikeouts and the nation's second-best 16 saves, the junior earned himself Second Team All-SEC and Second Team All-America selections, while being named a finalist for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award in his final season on the Plains.
The righty was also instrumental in the Tigers' incredible postseason run. After a shaky ending to the regular season, he notched the regional victory by recording the final six outs against UCLA. He then set down all eight batters he faced against Oregon State to help clinch a trip to the College World Series.
Burkhalter's work wasn't done in Omaha. He put an exclamation point on his career by retiring seven more against Stanford in Auburn's victory in his 51st, and final, collegiate appearance.
He will join his hometown team, and the reigning World Series Champions, the Atlanta Braves. The Braves went pitcher-heavy early on in the draft, as they went with a RHP for their first four draft picks.
The Braves, who have gone all-in on the present by trading many of their top prospects, are looking to revamp their farm system and find their arms of the future. A guy who is flexible out of the bullpen, like Burkhalter, is a good start.
RHP Mason Barnett | Round 3 pick 87- Kansas City Royals
In his third and final season at Auburn, Barnett made some big strides. After making just six starts in 22 appearances in his first two seasons, he blossomed as a starter in his junior year. He started 14 games in 19 appearances and posted a 3-3 record with a 4.38 ERA.
More innings meant a lot more strikeouts for the right-hander. He fanned 83 while giving out 32 free passes in just 63.2 innings.
Out of Cartersville, Georgia, Barnett might have put himself higher up on the draft board with a career performance in the regional final against UCLA. He racked up 10 Ks in 5.1 shutout frames before a rain delay ended his outing.
Barnett join a Royal squad that is focused on the future. After selecting league rival Cayden Wallace from Arkansas in round two, Kansas City took pitchers in the next three rounds.
After going 74-88 in 2021, the team is 36-56 midway through the 2022 campaign. They are in full rebuild mode. Expect Barnett and company to make an impact as soon as the next couple of years.
RHP Trace Bright | Round 5 pick 137- Baltimore Orioles
Reigning from Montgomery, Alabama, Bright was one of Auburn's most reliable starters in 2022. He made a start in every series of the season, the only Auburn pitcher to do so, and pitched the most innings of any Auburn hurler (80.2).
Earning a 5-4 record with a 5.13 ERA, the junior missed bats all season in 2022, leading his club with 94 strikeouts. He is at his best when attacking the zone, and while strikeouts are his strength, walks held him back at times. He walked 38 this season. If Bright can limit the free passes, he has the stuff to compete at a big league level.
Looking like Auburn's ace early in the season, he notched scoreless outings in his first three starts before struggling later on in the regular season. He threw his best baseball in the postseason, though, as he earned Auburn's only CWS win by holding Stanford to two runs in five innings. He also increased his velocity as the season went on, getting his fastball up to 96-97 MPH in his CWS start.
Although being the third Auburn player taken in the draft, he might have the best chance to make an impact at the big league level in the near future. The Baltimore Orioles, while struggling in recent history, have built a strong lineup. They are currently one of the hottest teams in the MLB, and they might be a few top-of-the-line starters away from a playoff berth.
1B Sonny DiChiara | Round 5 pick 148- Los Angeles Angels
From Hoover, Alabama to Los Angeles, California, DiChiara has swung his way to the big city. The SEC Co-Player of the Year and consensus All-American led the league and was second in the NCAA in OBP (.549), and his batting average (.383) and slugging percentage (.777) led the SEC as well.
His power stroke combined with his plate discipline make him a difficult out. His 22 homers as a senior (he hit 63 career homers) were tied for the second most in Auburn history, and his 68 walks were the most in program history in a single season. Between 79 hits and 68 walks, opponents only kept him off base in two of 65 games.
His size and age might have caused him to fall in the draft, but as his numbers show, he is one of the most talented pure hitters in the draft, and he wasn't exactly a defensive liability at Auburn. He doesn't provide much defensive flexibility, as he only plays first base, but DH is another option to have his bat in the lineup.
He also brings a positive, exciting energy to the clubhouse, as he exhibited by becoming a fan favorite in his lone season on the Plains. His enthusiasm and love for the game is something that will make him an asset to a major league clubhouse.
As as far as the Angels, things are pretty unpredictable. They are currently far below .500 and haven't made the playoffs since 2014, but they have plenty of star power to build around. Whether they will keep that star power and build around it or trade it away and brace for the future is unknown. Either way, DiChiara has the potential to work his way up the ladder and compete at a high level sooner rather than later.
Not to mention, the Angels' organization provides DiChiara with an opportunity to go through Alabama. The club's AA affiliate is in Huntsville, Alabama.
DiChiara might have been a fifth round pick, but the Angels might have just gotten a steal with the Alabama product.
LHP Carson Skipper | Round 11 pick 326- Colorado Rockies
The senior southpaw was a big-time leader for Auburn in the run to the CWS. Skipper seemed to always come up big in the right moment, posting a 6-3 record in 27 appearances in 2022.
He made five postseason outings, and did some of his best work in the super regionals against Oregon State. In the game one win, he pitched three shutdown innings while sitting down five on strikes from the sixth to the eighth innings before passing the ball to Burkhalter.
The Trussville, Alabama native posted 70 strikeouts to 14 walks in 2022 and posted a 4.45 ERA. In four years at Auburn, he made 70 appearances- he made nine starts, saved four games and became a staple in Auburn's bullpen.
Sitting well under .500 and coming off several consecutive losing seasons, the Rockies are looking to the future. Although, the signing of star third baseman Kris Bryant raises some eyebrows, the team's lack of pitching is going to hold them back.
In Skipper, the Rockies picked up a valuable lefty that can pitch in a variety of situations and provide some length out of the bullpen. In the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field, the Rockies need someone who can keep the ball in the park, and Skipper can do just that. He allowed just eight long balls in 2022.
LHP Hayden Mullins | Round 12 pick 369- Boston Red Sox
The lefty's draft stock might have been hurt by the arm injury that sidelined him for the end of the 2022 season. He did not pitch in the postseason for Auburn, but his strong regular season put him on the map.
The six-foot-tall junior from Tennessee started his first eight games for Auburn in 2022, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.63 ERA in 11 appearances. His strength was the strikeout, as he fanned 43 batters in 2022, including nine in his start against Vanderbilt.
He also saw work out of the bullpen in his freshman and sophomore years and early on in his junior year. That flexibility might prove valuable for him at the next level.
One area that Mullins will need to work on, however, is efficiency. Mullins' longest start in 2022 was five innings, and that is due to walks and deep counts. He walked 25 last season. While Mullins' big curveball gets a lot of swings and misses, it also leads to walks when hitters lay off of it.
It will be tough for Mullins to make an immediate impact with the Red Sox, who won the World Series in 2018 and made a run to the ALCS in 2021. They currently sit above .500 in a stacked AL East. Mullins will have to sharpen his efficiency and work on getting quick outs in order to work his way up in the farm system.
3B Blake Rambusch | Round 15 pick 456- Seattle Mariners
The Mariners got a sneaky good hitter in Rambusch. All he did in 2022 was lead Auburn in hits and post a .327 batting average.
The Austin, Texas product led off on an explosive Auburn lineup this season for one reason: he makes contact. The righty proved to be a tough strikeout, only going down on strikes 36 times in his junior season. He also went deep into counts and fouled off a lot of pitches, allowing guys behind him to pick up on the pitcher's stuff.
"Rambo" is incredibly resilient at the plate, and he doesn't back down with two strikes or two outs. He just makes contact and the rest takes care of itself.
His speed isn't to be underestimated either. He ranked third in the league in steals with 16 as a redshirt junior.
Rambusch stands at 5-foot-9, weighing 175 pounds, which is a little bit undersized for a third baseman, but he also saw time in right field and second base during his time on the Plains. He could be a valuable utility man, but he'll likely have plenty of time to find out his defensive position in the Minor Leagues.
No matter where he plays, he carries a sure glove. He was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team in 2022 after recording a .957 fielding percentage.
The Mariners are one of the up-and-coming young teams in the MLB, and they are looking to end their 21-year playoff drought in 2022 after entering the All-Star break on a 14-game winning streak. Therefore, it is unlikely that Seattle is putting him in their short-term plans, but maybe he can work his way into them.
Rambusch is likely to prove himself as a talented young hitter if he continues what he did at Auburn last season. Don't let the fact that he was taken in the 15th round fool you. That will only act as fuel for Rambusch.
SS Brody Moore | Round 17 pick 517- St. Louis Cardinals
As a four-year starter at Auburn, not enough can be said about Moore. He was a pivotal leader on the 2022 Auburn team and the MVP of the Auburn Regional.
His discipline at the plate has grown each year, but his defensive gems make the shortstop stand out.
Like Rambusch, the Oneonta, Alabama native knows how to make contact. He struck out just 35 times in his senior season while hitting .291 in 64 starts. He racked up 158 collegiate hits and batted a career .299.
Standing at 5-foot-11, Moore was key in the run to the CWS. He racked up 14 hits in the postseason while only making one error. His two-sided play gives him a chance to prove himself at the next level. If he can increase his power numbers, his team-first attitude and unselfish play style will carry him a long way.
While the Cardinals are consistently a playoff team and are once again in the playoff picture in 2022, they have gone to their farm system fairly quickly and gotten big contributions from young players. There is no doubt that Moore has some work to do to get to The Show, but Moore has never been one to shy away from hard work.
Looking to the future
So, what's next for Auburn baseball? After a season of beating the odds, ending in a CWS bid, Auburn did what all great programs do and passed some talent on to the next level. But like all other top programs, head coach Butch Thompson and company will retool. They now have the privilege of telling recruits that the 2022 class went to two College World Series' and produced three draftees.
Auburn baseball has now put its name on the map in almost every way possible. It posted a winning record, winning SEC record, had a player win SEC Player of the Year, hosted a Regional, took a trip to Omaha and had eight players selected in the 2022 MLB Draft.
All this to say, retooling doesn't mean rebuilding for Auburn anymore. The Tigers are on the map, and Thompson has the Auburn program trending upward quickly. This draft just proves that even more.
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