Five Reasons to be Optimistic About the Future of Auburn Baseball
Auburn coach Butch Thompson has laid the foundation for future success on the Plains. (photo: Auburn media file)
After Auburn baseball lost the NCAA Regional championship game to Florida State Monday, some fans immediately started pondering the future of the Auburn program, especially after graduations and the MLB draft bring changes to the roster.
This writer believes there are five good reasons to be optimistic about the future under head coach Butch Thompson. But first, I want to plead guilty to being an unabashed homer that tends to look through Orange & Blue tinted glasses. So with that out of the way …
No. 1 Rome wasn’t built in a day.
It will take time to get Auburn to the level of a perennial contender. However, in the short time Thompson has been on the Plains he has done a phenomenal job. He took over a program that was mired in controversy and obscurity and made it one of the SEC’s best in less than two years. And he did it by crafting a team of veterans and talented newcomers.
However, his first order of business was to provide a healing atmosphere and change the culture. He did that. And the fruits of that accomplishment can be heard from player testimonials. “[The program] is in great hands,” said outgoing senior Blake Logan, who played for former coach Sunny Golloway. “To see when I came in, where we’re at and where we’re going, I couldn’t be more proud.”
No. 2 Tigers exceeded expectations in 2017.
No one expected this team to finish any higher than last place in the league, yet the Tigers came within one strike of playing in their first Super Regional since 1999. Butch’s experience in helping take teams to the postseason was a big factor in Auburn getting there this year and finishing with 37 wins despite going through six weeks at the end of the year without Casey Mize or a healthy Keegan Thompson.
No. 3 Pitching wins championships.
I love power hitting as much as any fan, but championships are won more often with great pitching (especially in this age of NCAA dumb-down bats). I saw the problem this year as being the bullpen. When Keegan and Casey were healthy, the Tigers were a top-10 team. Make no mistake, their success stems greatly from Coach Thompson, who has always had a reputation for recognizing and developing pitching talent.
No. 4 Thompson’s record as a top recruiter and postseason coach.
Named Baseball America’s assistant coach of the year in 2014, Thompson has been responsible for developing dozens of players into the majors. Since recruiting (and coaching pitching) was his strength as an assistant, expect to see the depth issue taken care of in the next class or two. In fact there are nine top pitcher recruits being added to next year’s roster .
In addition to stocking rosters he knows how to extend a season, having helped 15 teams make it to the postseason, including 7 trips to the College World Series with one national champion and one national runner-up.
No. 5 More Power coming to the line up in 2018.
Although pitching wins championships, there is still a need for having “power” in the lineup. That need has been addressed. Former recruiting coordinator Brad Bohannon said this about the 2018 Top-10 class: “I’m very excited about this outstanding class. It’s got speed, it’s got power—both left- and right-handed. These are all athletic kids that will provide a lot of versatility.”
So there you have it, five solid reasons for feeling optimistic about the future of the program. Combined, they can serve as a launching pad for the Tigers to reach the next level.
Thompson said his vision of the next level is the College World Series. “It’s been since 2013 that I’ve been to Omaha, Neb., and I have a vision for these players, this team, of being able to get there.”