Phillip Ervin has quietly become one of the Reds’ best hitters in Spring Training. After slashing .252/.324/.404 last season with 7 home runs and 31 RBI in 78 games with the big league club, Ervin has hit .429/.556/1.143 out in Arizona, with 3 taters and 4 ribeyes in 14 at-bats. Obviously the competition in spring training is not the same as at the major league level, and Baseball Reference agrees, saying that the level of opposing pitching he has faced in spring is at the AA level. Despite that, “Magic” has shown flashes in previous seasons of having the ability to help the Reds on a daily basis.
In 48 games with Louisville last year, he had his best minor league season, hitting for .289/.373/.491 with 5 homers and 38 RBI. He also earned 20 walks for a walk rate of 9.9%. With the departure of Billy Hamilton, Ervin is now the team’s fastest player with a 90 foot speed of 3.87 seconds according to Statcast. He stole 10 bags with the Bats and 6 with the Reds last season. As a 2013 first-round draft pick, his progress has been slower than others. Scouting reports have said that his main issue was that he tried to pull the ball too much to hit dingers, which makes him a man after my heart. During his time with the Reds last year, though, Ervin actually had a opposite field batted balls rate of 33.3%, best on the team. It shows that he’s been working to spread the ball around to all fields while still maintaining power, as we’ve seen in spring too.
He has the ability to become an everyday starter on David Bell’s team. There’s only one problem with that. Well, five actually: Yasiel Puig, Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, Matt Kemp and Nick Senzel. If you consider Michael Lorenzen, that’s six other major league outfielders who are also in camp with Ervin. With two spots open on the bench for extra outfielders, it’s going to be incredibly tough for Ervin to make the Opening Day roster.
One possible road to Great American Ball Park for Phillip is becoming a consistent hitter off the bench. While Ervin started 56 games for Cincinnati in 2018, he was substituted on in 22 games and recorded 5 hits with 1 home run and 2 RBI. He also earned 3 walks and recorded a .360 OBP. He also earned a 128 sOPS+ during his at bats, meaning he performed 28 points better than league average of hitters coming off the bench. As a pinch hitter, he only recorded one hit last season. Ervin is more of a starter rather than a bat off the bench, but if he continues to improve his hitting over the rest spring training, that might be his way onto the Opening Day 25-man roster.
If he won’t be on that trip back home, the Reds should look into trading him, whether it be at the deadline or before then. He’s too good of a player to be kept in Triple A, and if the Reds are contending and need someone else down the stretch, Ervin would be a great in a trade to a rebuilding team. He’s 26 and not arbitration eligible until 2021, and needs his own spot to play every day. If the Reds let go of Kemp and decide to/are able to extend Puig, Ervin will be behind him and the rest of those aforementioned guys for the next few years, which is unfortunate for a player who’s shown he can play in the majors.
In the last three weeks of spring training, Ervin will have his chances to make an impact on David Bell and Derek Johnson. While he may be the low man on the depth chart, he’s going to be hard to option to Louisville if he decides to keep hitting dong shots every other day. Wherever he ends up for the 2019 season, Ervin is still a young talent with options, and his potential is showing right now in camp.