Montrell Marshall had been thinking about the First-Year Player Draft for a long time; for as long as he had been playing baseball, in fact. But he always knew that being drafted by the team he really wanted to play for, the one that employs his cousin as its starting second baseman, would be a long shot.
"Being drafted was always a dream of mine," Marshall said after being chosen in the 12th round (365th overall) of the Draft by the Reds on Saturday. "But I always thought it would be a really, really big coincidence if he and I played for the same team. I never thought that would happen, but it was always in the back of my mind."
Marshall is the first cousin of Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, and the 18-year-old out of South Gwinnett High School in Snellville, Ga., brings exciting possibilities to the Reds organization.
At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Marshall's frame enables him to hit for power, but he's also fast for his size, having played basketball before focusing on baseball in high school. He moves well at third base and has range, having played primarily at shortstop before moving to third base during showcase tournaments. Marshall also has a strong arm.
"There's versatility there," said John Poloni, who scouted Marshall for the Reds. "He played short in high school. I don't think he'll play short at the pro level, but he can play third, he can play first, he can play outfield. There's a lot of different places you could put him."
Marshall's size is an obvious feature that makes him an attractive draftee, but he said there's another element to his game that is his strongest suit.
"I feel like my frame gets a lot of attention," he said. "But also my knowledge of the game, I know the game pretty well. When I'm playing, I always try to think about the next thing that happens. My knowledge of the game and my work ethic are the real keys."
"From all indications I have … he appears to be a very high-quality kid with not only baseball skills and talent, but with a high IQ for the game," Poloni said.
Marshall was ranked the No. 146 Draft prospect by MLB.com, but due to a cracked vertebrae induced by his natural growth that cost him his entire senior season, he fell from a projected fourth-to-sixth-round pick to a 12th-round selection.
"My biggest challenge was when I didn't get to play my senior year," Marshall said. "It really hurt me in the Draft this year, but other than that, I was really confident going into my senior year. But my injury was probably the biggest challenge I had to go through."
Marshall is now healthy and despite falling in the Draft, he's landed in a spot he's very comfortable with. And though he signed with Auburn University, he intends to sign with Cincinnati.
"It's a big sigh of relief to be drafted by the Reds," he said. "They contacted me late [Friday] night and earlier [Saturday] and were real aggressive about drafting me, and I was willing to accept their offer."
It definitely helped Cincinnati's pursuit of Marshall that Phillips is on the roster.
"Being able to play with my first cousin, Brandon Phillips, in a few years, I couldn't say no to that," Marshall said.
Marshall was only 6 years old when Phillips broke into the big leagues in September 2002, and Phillips has encouraged him in his pursuit of becoming a Major League ballplayer.
"Ever since I moved up to Georgia and was closer to the [Phillips] family, all I got from him and his family was good advice over the past few years," Marshall said. "His family and my family were real keys in becoming a successful baseball player."
Marshall and Phillips hang out together in the offseason when Phillips heads home to Atlanta. The two certainly talk baseball, but they also share other interests.
"We do a lot of things like paintball and stuff," Marshall said with a laugh.
He still has a long way to go to reach the Majors, but it's fun for Marshall to envision what a Reds lineup might look like just a few seasons down the road. When asked whether he could see a lineup card with both his and Phillips' names penciled in together, he had a simple one-word answer:
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.