When Adam Duvall was traded at the deadline, and with Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler went on the DL with shoulder injuries, many fans thought the move would be an opportunity for Phillip Ervin to show the Reds if he can be a piece of the puzzle in the coming years. But Ervin has barely played, and with Schebler set to return soon, it doesn’t look like he will get any significant playing time in the near future.
So what is going on here?
Ervin, of course, is a former first round draft pick who turned 26 in July. He started the 2018 season with the Reds and played nearly every game for about two weeks in April. In sixteen games, he hit .211/.318/.237 with an OPS of .555. However, with Winker, Schebler, Duvall, and Billy Hamilton, Ervin had no place to play in the big leagues. When Schebler returned, Ervin was sent back to Triple-A Louisville, and his bat started to heat up. He hit a consistent .289/.373/.491 with five home runs, 25 runs scored, 38 RBI, and an .864 OPS, finishing his season there with an wRC+ of 141, the highest of his career since his 2015 season at Double-A Pensacola. When the plethora of Reds outfielders seemingly started to dissipate one by one, Ervin got the call back to Cincinnati.
Since being back with the Reds, Ervin has proven himself to be a solid player. In the last 28 days, he’s hit .333/.377/.550 with a .927 OPS. He has five doubles, two home runs, a triple, and has driven in 13. He hits LHP extremely well, batting close to .400 with an OPS of 1.228 against them. Even against RHP, Ervin’s numbers aren’t terrible. Certainly, it seems like it would make sense for Ervin, fairly young and once a highly-touted prospect, should be playing every day. Let’s see what he can do, right? But therein lies the problem. In the last 28 days (25 games), Ervin has started only 16 and played in only 22.
Of the Reds outfielders not named Billy Hamilton, Ervin seems to have the most potential. Preston Tucker is two years older than Ervin and has a career .226/.282/.406 slash line in three years at the MLB level. Mason Williams, while better than Tucker and a month younger than Ervin, has played professionally since he was 18 and still has just 128 at-bats in the majors in four years. Based on his performance at Triple-A Louisville, Williams might make a decent bench bat, but Ervin probably still has more talent to be a starter over Williams. Because of this, it’s baffling as to why Ervin isn’t playing more. Of the three mentioned above, Ervin has the best chance to be on the Opening Day roster in 2019. Wouldn’t the Reds want to see what he can do against MLB pitchers before spring training next year?
There is one part of Ervin’s game that is lacking, and that’s his defense. He has consistently missed cut off men and has shown a lack of fundamentals at times. Advanced defensive stats show his UZR and defensive runs saved (DRS) are both negative (below average) values, though we’re still talking tiny sample sizes. However, Ervin — formerly a full-time center fielder — has logged the most innings in right field, and his defensive numbers are better at that position. He even has a positive UZR (0.9) in RF.
But who cares at this point? What are the Reds going to learn about Ervin from having him sit the bench? Even if he is just a bench bat next season, it would be better to find out if he’s going to be a part of this team’s future now, rather than waiting until 2019. Soon Schebler will be back, and Ervin’s time will become even more limited. Start him everyday, and even after Schebler returns, rotate him in and out consistently. Now is the time to give Ervin a chance. The Reds shouldn’t waste another opportunity.