Today marks the official start of the season for the Pioneer League, and as Greg Rachac noted at milb.com, it will mark the 40th consecutive Opening Day where the Billings Mustangs have been affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds. The long relationship between the two clubs has seen a plethora of talented youngsters cut their teeth in the professional ranks, and this season's roster appears to be yet another classy one.
Phillip Ervin, the Reds' 1st round draft pick from just a few weeks ago out of Samford University, recently signed for just over $1.8 million, and the 20 year old looks set for a trip to Billings. It's interesting to see him sent to Billings rather than Dayton to begin his career, however, as the near 21 year old (his birthday is in July) is considered a pretty polished prospect who has also already shown success in the wooden-bat Cape Cod League. Considering OF prospects drafted from college and regarded less highly than Ervin such as Ryan LaMarre and Josh Fellhauer were recently sent directly to Class A Dayton instead of Billings, I wouldn't be surprised to see Ervin get a few-week cameo before heading back East to join the Dragons.
It appears that Ervin will be joined in Billings by fellow 2013 draft pick Michael Lorenzen, as MLBTradeRumors is reporting that he agreed to a contract with a $1.5 million signing bonus today (and since MLBTR reported it, we know it must be true). It still hasn't been completely determined if Lorenzen, the Reds' competitive balance pick out of Cal State Fullerton, will be used as an OF or as a flamethrowing RP, but he'll likely get a chance to show off both sets of skills for the Mustangs before any specific course is charted.
It also appears that mysterious Top-10 Reds' prospect Jonathan Reynoso will also be in Billings, with the 20 year old set to show whether his .311 average in the Arizona league was real or illusion, and there's a good chance Amir Garrett will get some innings in Montana's biggest city this summer, too.
The Mustangs will face the Great Falls Voyagers, the Chicago White Sox Pioneer League affiliate, tonight at 9:05 PM EST, and you can follow the Mustangs' season and news on twitter here. Here's to watching the Farmer's Only crew track down a new set of prospects!