When the Cincinnati Reds acquired Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers in December, Phillip Ervin probably started wondering where he fit among the surplus of outfielders the team now employs. But that hasn’t phased him, and now he’s on a mission to prove he should be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day.

In Goodyear, Arizona, the 26-year-old Ervin has hit .333/.438/.741 with an OPS of 1.178. He has three home runs, two doubles, four RBI, six runs scored, four walks and five strikeouts. He’s gotten 27 at-bats, tied with three others for second-most at-bats this spring. While spring training stats are rendered meaningless for many players, they can be useful to determine whether a player on the bubble, such as Ervin, will make the team.

Many times a team wants versatility when it comes to making decisions about the last few roster spots. Ervin has the versatility. He can play all three outfield positions. While he’s played the corners more recently in his career, center field–a question mark for the Reds–is an option. In six seasons at the minor league level, Ervin has played 195 games in center. Most of those games were at the Single-A and Advanced Single-A levels, however.

In 2018, the Reds recalled Ervin twice to replace Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler, both of whom spent time on the injured list last season. It’s why he played 266.2 innings in left and 217.1 innings in right, compared to only 24.0 innings in center. While with the Reds, Ervin also wasn’t terrible at the plate. He hit .252/.324/.404 with a .728 OPS and a respectable 94 wRC+. In 247 plate appearances, he had seven home runs, 10 doubles, 27 R, and 20 walks. He stole 10 bases in 12 attempts, and that was low for him.

Teams tend to value speed, particularly for bench players. Reds fans may not think of Ervin when they think speed, but he’s actually quite fast. From 2014-2016, he stole 30+ bases in each season at three different levels of the minor leagues. In 2017 at Triple-A Louisville, he stole 23 bases in 29 attempts. While Ervin didn’t have much of a chance to steal bases at the big league level in 2018, he was one of the fastest players on the team in sprint speed at 28.0 feet per second (ft/s), according to Statcast. Only Billy Hamilton and Jose Peraza were faster. With Ervin’s speed, one might figure he might be in contention to back up Senzel in center. He hasn’t played one inning in center this spring though. The majority of his innings have come in right field, which as everyone knows, is where Puig will play.

With the combination of versatility and speed, Ervin can be an ideal bench player for the Reds this season. However, due to the number of outfielders on the current roster, he will likely start the season at Triple-A Louisville unless a trade or injury happens. Even if he keeps hitting, he has minor league options and the Reds control his contract through 2020. Don’t be surprised to see Ervin with the Reds at some point in 2019, but it’s unlikely to be on Opening Day.

16 Responses

  1. matthew hendley

    Baring injury, Ervin will be called up if the reds decide that they want to sell off in the now only trade deadline during the year. He will start in AAA. If they really want to improve his usefulness he will start CF for the Bats every day. I could have sworn that he had more service time remaining though prior to FA, 2020 seems a little early

    Reply
    • AllTheHype

      Ervin is controlled thru at least 2024, six more seasons minimum.

      Reply
      • Matt Hendley

        Thats what i thought. Maybe it his options that run out next year

  2. Old-school

    Philip Ervin is doing a great job preparing for the regular season. A year ago, Tucker Barnhart hit 4 home runs in ST with a .919 OPS. In the regular season, he had an OPS of .699.

    Reply
      • Old-school

        Conclusions from spring training games and 50 at bats are limited and don’t translate to the regular season. That doesn’t mean Ervin isn’t poised for a good year. He’s preparing well for the season.

        Arismendy Alcantara raked in 2017 with 4 home runs as did Patrick Kivlehan.

  3. Optimist

    I hope someone has pointed out to him the career path of Mike Easler. He seems like a candidate for a late-starting, but extended career.

    Reply
  4. CFD3000

    Welcome back Ashley! I agree that Ervin is a long shot to make the Opening Day roster. But he’s certainly done his best to make a bid for playing time and will definitely be first man up if (when?) the injury bug hits. And with both Puig and Kemp set to move on for 2020, and Senzel a candidate to slide to 2nd, it’s not hard to imagine Ervin as a starter in 2020. Especially if he hits AAA pitching like he’s torn up the Grapefruit League.

    Reply
  5. Stock

    Everyone will think I am crazy but I could see the opening day roster of:

    IF: Barnhart, Votto, Gennett, Suarez, Peraza
    OF: Kemp, Schebler, Puig
    Bench: Casali, Dietrich, Iglesias, Ervin

    SP: Gray, Castillo, DeSclafani, Roark
    RP: Iglesias, Lorenzen, Hernandez, Hughes, Garrett, Wisler, Duke, Peralta

    Reply
  6. Jreis

    Great Article Ashley. Honestly I have given up on Ervin and I was one of his biggest supporters. He was really the first 5 tool guy we have had since Eric Davis. He is the position player version of Sal Romano. All the talent in the world but seems to have a mental block. I felt last year especially early in the year he just seemed uninterested in playing. Missing cutoff men, base running blunders. Maybe he can turn things around but I am not holding my breath

    Reply
    • ToBeDetermined

      Jreis
      “All the talent in the world but seems to have a mental block. I felt last year especially early in the year he just seemed uninterested in playing. Missing cutoff men, base running blunders. ”

      I know, I don’t know if it’s his personality or what it is. But, he doesn’t make a presence when I see him play. In contrast it appears that he actually has the physical tools to be an excellent all around player.

      I would like to see him embrace all that talent and just force the Reds to have to get him regular ABs at the Major League level. If he can get the basics of the game down on a consistent basis he could be a special player.

      good luck to Phillip

      Reply
  7. BK

    I could see Ervin beating Winker out for a roster spot. Winker is coming off shoulder surgery coupled with poor spring hitting results could may need more time working on his stroke at Louisville. Ervin also brings the versatility to play all 3 OF positions. I would not be surprised to see Kemp, Schebler, and Puig start on opening day with Ervin as the 4th outfielder.

    Reply
    • ToBeDetermined

      BK

      At first, I thought that’s crazy.
      But, then I thought yea, that’s a possibility to start the year.
      But, then again if Ervin is going to beat out Winker I’d hate to see him sitting the bench as a 4th OF. Rather see him in the lineup most everyday with Kemp as the 4th OF.

      Reply

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