For the first time since we began the Pipeline Perspectives series, Jonathan Mayo and I agree. I can't dispute that Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant had the best debut among 2013 draftees, especially if you want to consider his performance in the Class A Advanced Florida State League playoffs as the closing argument.
However, fellow first-round pick Phillip Ervin nearly matched Bryant's performance without receiving nearly as much attention. The Reds were delighted that Ervin lasted until the 27th overall selection in June, which didn't make sense considering his tools and track record of amateur accomplishment. The 2012 Cape Cod League MVP and three-time all-Southern Conference performer continued to produce after signing for $1,812,400.
Ervin began his pro career in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, a circuit that heavily favors batters. He took advantage, recording five multihit games in his first seven contests and batting .326/.416/.597 with eight homers, 29 RBIs and 12 steals (in as many attempts) in 34 games. Ervin had no problems jumping to the low Class A Midwest League, a pitcher-friendly circuit. In 12 games there, he hit .349/.451/.465, with a homer, six RBIs and two steals.
Ervin doesn't feature a classic build, but the 5-foot-11, 190-pound outfielder generates above-average power with a compact right-handed swing. He should hit for average and get on base more than most batters, and some scouts think he can stick in center field. Even if Ervin doesn't, he has plenty of bat and arm for right field.
As for pitchers, I think Rockies right-hander Jonathan Gray had the best start from the 2013 Draft class. That's not necessarily surprising, as Gray had the most electric arm available in the entire Draft. He went third overall, and I would have taken him over the two players ahead of him -- Astros right-hander Mark Appel and Bryant -- because Gray has a higher ceiling than either.
Gray signed for a club-record $4.8 million before heading to the Pioneer League. He hadn't pitched in five weeks when he made his pro debut on July 10, and the rust showed. Gray gave up three runs in the first inning (with Ervin contributing a double) and allowed seven hits in three innings while striking out only one.
After that, Gray started to roll. He made three more Pioneer League starts, allowing a total of three earned runs while fanning 14 in 10 1/3 innings. That earned Gray a three-level promotion to the Class A Advanced California League, the toughest pitcher's circuit in full-season ball.
Gray wasn't fazed by the Cal League or its hitters, as the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder carved them up with his mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider. He went 4-0 with a 0.75 ERA in five starts. Gray struck out 36 and walked just six in 24 innings, holding opponents to a .128 average and one extra-base hit in 78 at-bats.
While the Rockies haven't had much success developing starting pitching recently, Gray looks like he could race to Coors Field without much development. And Ervin might be the best all-around outfield prospect in a Reds system that has several outfield phenoms such as Billy Hamilton, Jesse Winker and Ryan LaMarre.