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Pleased with picks, Reds focus on signing draftees

After about 72 hours, 40 rounds and more than 1,000 picks -- 1,216, to be exact -- the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft is over. And for Chris Buckley, Reds senior director of amateur scouting, and executives across baseball, the work is just getting started.

"The easy part is picking them," Buckley said, laughing. "The harder part is signing them. It's not easy to pick, but the easier part is over."

Cincinnati made a total of 41 picks in the last three days, and now Buckley and the Reds' staff is faced with the task of signing as many as possible to professional contracts. For the college kids, that likely won't be much of a problem. But signing high-school players -- of which the Reds drafted 19 -- can be a little tricky.

The deadline for signing players selected in the First-Year Player Draft is 5 p.m. ET on July 12. With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement put in place last year that allocates funds for teams to spend over the first 10 rounds, signing those picks at the right price is the most important. Buckley said he felt good about where the organization, which has $6,046,700 to work with in the first 10 rounds, stood with those players.

"We've had a lot of conversations with those guys," Buckley said.

The Reds opened the Draft on Thursday night taking outfielder and Samford product Phillip Ervin in the first round with the 27th overall pick. It was the first outfielder taken in the first round by Cincinnati since Drew Stubbs in 2006, but Buckley said the Reds had been following Ervin since he won MVP in the Cape Cod League last summer. Ervin took home that honor by batting .323 with 31 RBIs, 29 runs scored and 10 stolen bases for the Harwich Mariners

Cincinnati continued Day 1 taking the versatile Michael Lorenzen out of Cal-State Fullerton in the competitive balance round. Lorenzen was selected as a pitcher who can throw 95-98 mph, but he's also good at the plate and as a position player in the outfield. Buckley said Lorenzen projects best as a pitcher and "could get to the big leagues pretty quickly doing that," but the Reds want to give him a chance to prove himself on the mound, in the field and at the plate.

To round out the first day of the Draft, Cincinnati went with power-hitting third baseman Kevin Franklin from Gahr High School (Calif.). Buckley said Franklin -- listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds -- is "a very good athlete for a big guy" and he has the power to be a corner infielder.

Day 2 started a trend for the Reds, who took six pitchers in rounds 3-10. Third-round pick Mark Armstrong, a right-hander out of Clarence High School (N.Y.) highlighted the group. Standing 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Armstrong is a "big, phyiscal guy with good stuff," according to Buckley. And, as a three-sport athlete from the Northeast, he has plenty of room to grow.

The Reds took another high school arm in Tyler Mahle (seventh round), whom Buckley said will fill out his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame, to go along with four college pitchers on Day 2.

Perhaps the most intriguing Reds pick on Friday was left-handed pitcher Chad Jones. A former two-sport athlete at LSU, Jones was drafted by the Brewers in 2010, but decided to stick with football when the New York Giants selected him two months later. Shortly after, Jones was involved in a nearly fatal car accident and there were questions on whether he would walk again.

Three years later, Jones turned back to baseball and the Reds took him in the ninth round. Buckley said Jones started working out about two months ago, and he's confident the former 13th-round pick by the Astros in the 2007 Draft can get back to where he was before he chose football.

"Absolutely," Buckley said. "We all scouted Chad through football and baseball at LSU. Unfortunately for him, he had the bad injury. This kid had tremendous potential, and he hadn't even scratched the surface because he only played baseball when he wasn't on the football field."

In all, Cincinnati took 21 pitchers in three days, which is not uncommon. In 2012, 27 of the Reds' 42 picks were pitchers.

"We took a lot of pitching like we always do," Buckley said. "We're just of the belief it takes more pitchers to get a few. Pitchers always get hurt, and some aren't as good as you hope they are."

Day 3 started with the Reds taking another big pitcher in the 11th round. Ty Boyles, a left-hander out of Quartz Hill High School in California, checks in at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds. Buckley said he has the arm strength to go with his size, which is a major factor when looking for players who can last in the Majors.

"So much of what we do in professional sports is based off your body, your size, your strength," Buckley said. "Baseball is a really, really long season, and you have to be big and strong."

In the first five rounds on Saturday, the Reds selected a pair of high-school catchers, Shedric Long (12th round) out of Jacksonville High School in Alabama and Jarrett Freeland (15th round) from Georgia's Parkview High School.

Long is a prototypical catcher with a strong right arm, but Freeland, who is 6-foot-7, also could project as a pitcher, Buckley said. And much like 14th-round pick Willie Abreu, a power-hitting right fielder from Mater Academy Charter School (Fla.), Buckley was unsure of Freeland's "signability."

"[Freeland] and Willie are two real wildcards," Buckley said. "We would like to sign them both. Whether we'll be able to or not, we'll see in the next month or so."

As the later rounds progressed, the Reds diversified their picks while still leaning heavily on pitching. Starting with the 16th round, Cincinnati took 12 pitchers, six outfielders, two catchers, shortstops and first baseman and a third baseman.

Deep in the draft, Buckley said he and his staff look for a specific type of player.

"We always look for makeup first," Buckley said. "We always want to sign quality people, tough guys that like to compete. Guys that are good teammates. Hopefully, we did that."

One of those players was 31st-round pick Andrew Benintendi. A center fielder out of Cincinnati's Madeira High School, Benintendi was not a stranger to the Reds.

"All our scouts locally that cover the area have seen him a lot," Buckley said. "He came into our pre-draft workout and played very well. He's a good young player, very talented guy that has a scholarship to Arkansas, a very fine school. We'll see what happens. We would love if we can get him under contract, and if he goes to school, we understand that. But he's a very talented player."

After the draft wrapped up on Saturday, Buckley said he was pleased with how the three-day event played out. Most importantly, he said he was confident in his scouts and the process they took in making the picks they did.

"I hope we did well," Buckley said. "It takes many years to assess a draft. For the people that think they can analyze a draft a couple days afterward, that doesn't really happen. Who knows over the next three or for years who's going to be injured. Who knows over the next three years who's going to seriously improve. Many of these kids we're signing are 17-18 years old. A whole lot of these kids are going to improve, and some are going to improve more than we thought they were. It's really difficult to assess, and we caution people: Let's go out and let them play."

Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for
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