Auburn 2017 Preseason Preview

By Tiffany Seal

With the 2017 season around the corner, Auburn is looking to capitalize on its pitching and defense to carry them through a rigorous schedule. The Tigers are a field of fresh faces with 20 new players coming in under head coach Butch Thompson’s second season at the helm. The 2016 season was a learning curve for the new coaching staff, but did experience success at the plate. The strengths have changed this season, as Auburn lost three key power bats in Niko Buentello, Joshua Palacios and first-rounder Anfernee Grier. Junior college additions DH/first baseman Dylan Ingram and third baseman Josh Anthony may be able to supplement for some of that lost power in the lineup, but overall, the Tigers will win games around their pitching. This will start with the re-addition of ace Keegan Thompson, who is coming off a year of rehab after Tommy John. The Saturday start will go to senior Gabe Klobasits, with highly touted sophomore Casey Mize taking the Sunday slot. Mize is expected to have a breakthrough season after getting a taste of the weekend rotation up until midway through conference play last spring. After spending the summer on the Cape, he’s developed better feel for his off speed offerings and able to sustain his mid-90s fastball velocity better, while commanding the zone when the velo does drop off.

The Tigers have a handful of dynamic pieces in the field, starting with senior catcher Blake Logan, who will split time as DH and behind the dish with newcomer Mike Rojas. Logan could be a surprise piece to the success of the Tiger’s offense after showing solid pop when not catching. Senior Daniel Robert and Ingram are a duo that could swap time at first, with Robert able to play right and come in for certain situations on the mound. Luke Jarvis and Jay Estes will man the middle infield, with both coming off strong offensive seasons at their respective JCs. Both have good gloves and are dynamic team up the middle. Known for his power bat, Anthony has been a pleasant surprise with is glove at third, where he’s made several diving grabs and shown off his catcher’s arm. He will be the spark in the lineup if he can carry over where he left off at the plate last spring, batting .444 at Western Oklahoma State College—the second-highest batting average in the country. Redshirt freshman Jeremy Johnson will take over center field and become the table setter for the lineup. Johnson showed some power at the plate during scrimmages, and is also a threat on the base paths. He has the potential to follow in Grier’s shoes if he can handle SEC pitching.

One of the more interesting storylines to watch is where freshman RHP Davis Daniel will fit into the Tiger’s game plan. Daniel was highly recruited and drafted out of high school because of his three-pitch repertoire and advanced feel for this low-90s fastball. The potential for him to crack the weekend rotation is feasible, and will be interesting to see if he will get a couple non-conference weekend starts to test the waters. Regardless, Daniel will be a nice option to have in Butch Thompson’s pocket. As long as Auburn’s pitching staff can keep runs at a minimum, this team looks scrappy enough to surprise the SEC come March and be in Hoover in May.

Projected Lineup

8 -Jeremy Johnson

6 -Luke Jarvis

5 -Josh Anthony

DH -Blake Logan

3 -Dylan Ingram

7 -Sam Gillikin

9 -Daniel Robert

2 -Mike Rojas

4 -Jay Estes


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