The number 39 wasn’t disappointing the second time around in the MLB Draft for Auburn’s Anfernee Grier.
The outfielder was selected with the 39th overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Lottery Round A on the first day of the draft Thursday three years removed from going in the 39th round coming out of Russell County high school.
When former Diamondbacks infielder Orlando Hudson announced Grier’s name, it was a dramatic moment for the entire Grier family watching the draft together on Auburn’s campus.
“My adviser gave me a heads up that they wanted me at 39, but it was up in the air,” Grier said. “I don’t know why it wasn’t 100 percent, but I wasn’t sure they were going to take me until my name was called.”
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The tension in the room immediately vanished.
“Everyone went crazy,” Grier said. “They all went nuts. It was fun, it kind of made the moment. I was so nervous, so nervous then I was just filled with joy. It’s hard to even describe.”
Grier spent the weeks leading up to the draft interviewing with major league clubs. Arizona was one of the five ballparks he visited in-person and he had conversations with other baseball executives and scouts from around the league.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder expected to go in the opening rounds based on those discussions, but was still anxious about his draft stock based on the unpredictability of the event.
“I got the sense Arizona liked me, but I had no idea how much,” Grier said. “They were one of the teams I liked the most. I got a good feeling from them, so it was cool how it worked out. They have a real good organization, a family organization.”
Grier’s conversations with members from Diamondbacks were brief ones Thursday night with the club preparing to make two more picks.
“I have no idea what happens next, but all I know is I got drafted,” Grier said with a laugh.
Arizona forfeited its first round pick to the Los Angeles Dodgers for signing free agent Zack Grienke making Grier the team’s first overall selection in the 2016 draft. The slot value (signing bonus) for the 39th overall pick is $1,585,400. Jake Woodford, the player taken at No. 39 last year, received a $1.8 million bonus from the St. Louis Cardinals.
“When you think about it, it’s a pretty special privilege to be somebody’s first pick,” Grier said.
As a junior, Grier batted .366 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs. He earned All-American honors from Baseball America earlier this week.
If Grier signs with the Diamondbacks he will be the second member of his family to make the jump to the minor leagues. His father Antron Grier spent four years in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization after he was drafted in the sixth round of the 1987 draft.
On MLB Network’s broadcast of the first two rounds, the panel of experts gave Grier high marks.
“He’s a guy who performed in the SEC, in some ways I’m surprised his name wasn’t creeping up,” MLB Network’s draft expert Jonathan Mayo said. “It’s not a great year for college bats. He’s got tools, he’s athletic. This was the Diamondbacks’ first pick, they didn’t have a first rounder. To get a guy with some upside out of the college ranks that performed in the best conference in the country, not too bad.”
Former major leaguer Harold Reynolds echoed Mayo’s analysis.
“Athletic, quick hands, I love the fact how he explodes when he gets on the base paths,” Reynolds said. “He runs, plays good defense, and swings the bat.”
Grier is the highest Auburn player selected in the draft since fellow former All-American Gabe Gross was taken 15th overall by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2001. The Tigers have had at least one player taken in the draft for 42 consecutive seasons.
“Anfernee had such a special season and has worked so hard,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said in a statement. “It’s nice to see his character and hard work pay off. He and his family are so deserving of this MLB selection. We are thankful for their sincere support and we wish him all the best as he embarks on his dream to become a Major League player. He will be a part of the Auburn family forever.”
RUSSELL COUNTY PLAYERS DRAFTED