Auburn’s Tanner Burns and Alabama’s Tyler Gentry are now part of the MLB experience.
The two players were selected in the MLB Amateur Draft — Burns late Wednesday night as the 36th overall pick by the Cleveland Indians and Gentry on Thursday as the 76th pick by the Kansas City Royals.
Burns is a junior pitcher from Decatur in north Alabama and Gentry is a junior right fielder from Arlington, Tenn. Burns was a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds, while Gentry was taken in the third round.
Also drafted Thursday was Troy University signee Tekoah Roby of Pine Forest High School in Pensacola. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound pitcher was taken in the third round and 86th pick by the Texas Rangers.
The draft was still in progress Thursday night at the Dothan Eagle deadline. Three rounds had been completed with the fourth and fifth rounds still remaining.
“I can’t wait to get to work,” Burns said in a release from Auburn athletics on Wednesday night.
“Hearing my name called in the first round is a dream come true, but I want to be a big leaguer, not just a professional baseball player, so there’s still work to do. I can’t thank my family enough for their unwavering support. They’ve been with me every step of the way.
“I also want to thank (Auburn head coach Butch Thompson) and the Auburn baseball program for investing in me not only as a baseball player, but also as a person. Lastly, I want to thank the Cleveland Indians organization for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to take that next step toward achieving my dream.”
Burns became Auburn’s third first-round pick taken under Thompson. He follows pitcher Casey Mize taken No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft and outfielder Anfernee Grier, the No. 39 in the 2016 draft.
Burns made an instant impact for Auburn becoming a regular starter as a freshman, leading the team as an ace arm during its journey to the College World Series in 2019 as a sophomore, then starting this year strong before the sports world was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Tanner came here with a great track record, a survival fastball and a competitive spirit and that made him a Freshman All-American,” Thompson said in Auburn’s release. “What I’m most proud of is the fact that he’s taken those things and has really developed. He’s an unbelievable teammate, all of his pitches are starting to develop, and I think he leaves Auburn with still a lot of room to grow and a high ceiling, which I think makes him even more valuable.
“He checks so many boxes as a person, teammate and competitor and has tremendous skill. You can kind of see that’s what is required of a first rounder is to check a lot of boxes, and Tanner Burns believes in himself and has a strong goal of being not only a major league but a long-time major leaguer. I think he has what it takes.”
Alabama’s Gentry became the highest-selected Tide player since Mikey White went in the second round in 2015 and the second highest-selected UA outfielder since Joe Vitiello in the first round of the 1991 draft.
The slot value for the 76th overall pick is $818,200.
Gentry was off to a strong start in 2020, hitting .429 with six doubles and four home runs in 56 at-bats — one extra-base hit every 5.6 at-bats. Gentry would be a junior in 2021 if he does not sign with the Royals and comes back to UA, maintaining the year of eligibility after the NCAA granted an extra year to all spring sport athletes in the wake of canceled season due to COVID-19.
— Justin Lee of the Opelika-Auburn News and Brett Hudson of the Tuscaloosa News contributed to this story