The Tigers have some unfinished business.
That’s to say the least. The old cliché is truer now than ever before.
Auburn baseball stars Jack Owen, Cody Greenhill, Steven Williams and more are coming back to try to finish what they’ve started on the Plains, and after the dust has settled from the whirlwind of unknowns that was the MLB Draft, Auburn’s future for 2021 is starting to take shape.
“Time to run it back,” Owen posted to Twitter on Friday.
Staff ace Tanner Burns was picked in the first round of the MLB Draft on Wednesday before fellow pitcher Bailey Horn was taken in the fifth round on Thursday. They’ll be leaving. But Owen lead the charge of Tigers announcing that they’ll be coming back to try to play next season.
After the coronavirus pandemic put an early end to the 2020 season this spring, that phrase “unfinished business” takes on a new meaning for college baseball players.
Greenhill will come back to the mound along with Owen, with the former closer likely transitioning to be a starting arm for Auburn in the future, Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said this week. Williams, the outfielder and two-out hero from Auburn’s winner over Georgia Tech during the postseason in 2019, simply said “Boys are back” on Instagram over the weekend, pointing to the future. Those three were all juniors in 2020, now rising seniors.
In an unprecedented move in unprecedented times, Thompson also said that senior first baseman Rankin Woley has told him he plans to come back, taking advantage of the extra season of eligibility relief offered by the NCAA after the season was cut short.
“They have a strong, powerful intention of playing professional baseball, but they value themselves, they value returning to Auburn, they value that Auburn degree,” Thompson said of his standout players like those who intend to come back.
They could’ve all been drafted if the MLB had been a full 40 rounds instead of being shrunk down to five rounds amid the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Other seniors will have to decide if they’re moving on or taking the chance to come back. Thompson said catcher Matt Scheffler will entertain free agency offers from clubs and consider signing if the right fit comes along. Designated hitter Conor Davis has told reporters before that as much as he’d like to come back, plans and finances can make that difficult for someone his age with life ahead of him.
Senior pitcher Ryan Watson signed with Baltimore in Sunday, so he’ll be moving on.
With a strong batch of returners, though, Auburn has the core of its future in place.
“We’re so thankful to have those guys back,” Thompson said. “There may be some more pieces moves around here later on as our families and coaching staffs start communicating. But I think we’ll have a good, clear picture of what’s going on, with some adjustments to be made down the road.”