Outfielder from small school looks to be big player

Outfielder from small school looks to be big player

Outfielder from small school looks to be big player

CINCINNATI -- From the start of his collegiate career, center fielder Phillip Ervin felt he was overlooked and had something to prove. Ervin wanted to go to a big college and play in his home state of Alabama but wasn't taken.

Instead offered a scholarship from a smaller school in the state, Samford University, Ervin went there and made a name for himself there.

On Thursday, the Reds selected Ervin with the 27th selection in the first round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. The 20-year-old junior was at home with his family when he received the news he would be selected by Cincinnati.

"I'm just overwhelmed," Ervin said. "I'm excited my dream is coming true. This is something I've always wanted to do since I was a little kid. I am ready to start this journey to the Majors."

With the 38th overall selection in the Competitive Balance Round A, the Reds took right-handed pitcher Michael Lorenzen, a closer out of Cal-State Fullerton. Lorenzen was also an outfielder in college, but was taken as a pitcher by Cincinnati.

The Reds had one more pick on the first night of the Draft, their second-round selection at No. 67 overall, and used it to take third baseman Kevin Franklin from Gahr High School in California.

In 55 games this season, Ervin batted .337 with 11 home runs, 14 doubles, 40 RBIs and 58 runs scored. He also stole 21 bases in 23 attempts.

At 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Ervin is a right-handed-hitting and -throwing center fielder. He is the first outfielder taken by the Reds in the first round since center fielder Drew Stubbs in 2006.

"He's a very complete player," Reds senior director of scouting Chris Buckley said. "We've been following Phillip since last summer up to Cape Cod League. He's what we call a five-tool player, has a chance to be a complete player and another guy who plays in the middle of the field."

A native of Leroy, Ala., Ervin played both baseball and football. Not getting the opportunity to go to a bigger college made him more determined to succeed.

"I wanted to go to an SEC school like Alabama or Auburn and I didn't get offers from them," Ervin explained. "The only offer that came was from Samford. I guess I had a little chip on my shoulder, especially when we played them. I always wanted to make them regret not offering me. I wanted them to feel bad for like, 'Oh, we missed out on this kid. We should have picked him up.' "

Represented by agent Michael Moye, Ervin hopes to sign quickly. The slot value assigned to the 27th pick is $1,812,500, but the club and player can negotiate another figure. Cincinnati has a bonus pool sum of $6,046,700 to work with over the first 10 rounds.

"I'm just ready to try and get through the Minor Leagues as fast as I can. I will try my hardest," Ervin said.

The Reds did not believe there would be issues getting Ervin signed.

"We did a lot of work with him, so we think it's good," Buckley said.

In the Cape Cod League, a wooden bat league for college-level players, Ervin led the Harwich Mariners last summer by batting .323 with 31 RBIs, 29 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. He won the league's MVP award.

MLB.com ranked Ervin as the 21st best prospect in the Draft.

Samford recruited Ervin to be a pitcher but his hitting skills eventually became too good not to be used every day by a position player.

"If you talk to pro scouts, they'll tell you his bat speed is off the charts," Samford head coach Casey Dunn recently told the Birmingham Herald. "The bat speed he is able to create is better than most, and that's the thing that's going to jump out at you. He has an above-average throwing arm in the outfield. He has a chance to hit with power but has the speed to play center field, which not a lot of people do. That's pushed him from a tools standpoint very high. The fact is, he's a very good hitter and he was able to show that for three years here.

"He showed that in the Cape, too, not just hitting for power but hitting for a good average, too and not striking out a lot. He really showed the ability to be a polished college hitter."

Ervin grew up wanting to pattern his game after Dodgers superstar center fielder Matt Kemp, but has designs on creating a new mold for others to copy.

"Now I'm just trying to evolve," Ervin said. "I want people to say, 'I want to be like Phillip Ervin and I want try to be like him.' I want to be a role model for kids and always play hard and stuff like that."

Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. ET. And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.

MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

In the Pipeline

The Reds never take players to fill immediate needs and their system already has two elite prospects in center field ahead of Ervin in Billy Hamilton and Ryan LaMarre. Moved over from shortstop during the previous offseason, the super-speedy Hamilton is currently at Triple-A Louisville and holds the professional record of 155 steals in 2012.

At the Double-A level in Pensacola, the Reds also have tremendous speed and defense in LaMarre. Like Hamilton, LaMarre was in big league camp at Spring Training for the first time this year. Ervin is currently viewed as a center fielder and will get to play his natural position after he signs.

"We see him as a center fielder," Buckley said. "And again it just goes back to the way we always try and do it. We thought he was the best player when it was our turn to pick."

The Reds see Lorenzen as a closer or possible starting pitcher. He would like to be a hitter as well, but the organization believes his pitching ability could get him to the Majors a lot quicker.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.