Auburn vs. Illinois-Chicago baseball

Auburn's Tanner Burns (32) throws a pitch during the Auburn vs. Illinois-Chicago baseball game at Plainsman Park on Feb. 14, 2020.

Tanner Burns has seen a dream come true.

Auburn’s junior pitcher was picked No. 36 overall by the Cleveland Indians in the MLB Draft on Wednesday night.

He’s taken a wild ride here. This comes after his season was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic. It comes during a lightning-fast, virus-shortened draft, shrunk down from 40 rounds to just five.

But in all that chaos and a cloud of unknown, Burns saw his future shine through Wednesday night.

The ride’s taking him to Cleveland.

“I can’t wait to get to work,” Burns said, quoted in a release from Auburn athletics on Wednesday.

The MLB Draft’s first round was picked through then. Burns was selected as a compensatory pick. The second, third, fourth and fifth rounds will be selected through today.

“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,” Burns said. “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 becomes Auburn’s third first-round pick taken under Thompson. He follows fellow pitcher Casey Mize taken No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft and outfielder Anfernee Grier who was picked No. 39 overall 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, then starting this year strong before the sports world was turned upside down.

“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.”

It was earlier this spring that Auburn all-timer and new pitching coach Tim Hudson said Burns came to him asking not about what it takes to get to the big leagues, but what it takes to stay in the big leagues for 10 years, 15 years, or 17 years like Hudson.

“He has been surrounded by some of the better pitching minds in collegiate baseball the past few years,” ESPN baseball analyst and former big league pitcher Kyle Peterson said after Burns was picked, pointing to Thompson, Hudson and other staffers. “You can see the slider spin rate that’s through the roof.

“It’s four real pitches, and … it’s three years of consistent performance in the SEC for Burns.”

Auburn boasts that Burns makes this the 46th year that Auburn has had a player taken in the MLB Draft, going back to 1975.

“He got to watch Casey Mize for a year,” Peterson added in his analysis. “I think it’s a huge advantage for Burns — and he’s talked about it in the past — just the things that he learned from Mize, a former No. 1 overall.”

Peterson touted Burns’ two different breaking balls, his fastball in the mid-90s, and his changeup, adding that he added on a curveball in the offseason.

ESPN2 and MLB Network will carry Day 2 coverage of the draft starting at 4 p.m. today.

Pitchers Bailey Horn and Cody Greenhill plus outfielder Steven Williams and signee Werner Blakely have all popped up on MLB Draft mocks as potential second-day picks.

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