Phillip Ervin needed a breakout season in 2019. Ervin outperformed his competition and will surely be on next year’s Cincinnati Reds roster.
At the start of the 2019 season, Phillip Ervin’s future with the Cincinnati Reds seemed grim. Yasiel Puig, Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel appeared to be the outfield of the future, with top prospects Taylor Trammell or Jose Siri waiting in the wings. A bit of luck and a breakout season helped Ervin showcase his talent and all but secure a spot on the team in 2020.
Before he was called up for good on June 15th, Ervin spent time in Triple-A Louisville on four separate occasions. In April and May, Ervin only had 20 plate appearances in 10 games, with 7 of those plate appearances coming as a pinch hitter. He started three times and was never given much of a chance to try to showcase his talents at the major league level.
Nevertheless, Ervin made the most of his opportunity, putting up a respectable .250/.400/.438 slash through his first 20 plate appearances. In the first eight games Ervin played in June, his numbers suffered. Ervin’s OPS dropped to a low of .589 on June 23rd. However, as Ervin got more frequent opportunities, his bat heated up.
During a game in the Mile High City against the Colorado Rockies, Ervin went 6-for-6 during a 17-9 slugfest in Denver. Ervin’s OPS jumped from .805 to .981 in just one game and Ervin’s power was on full display, as Ervin had nine total bases with a double and a triple in the victory.
Ervin’s numbers fell once a larger sample size was unearthed, but his stats still reflected a solid major league player. With six games to go, Ervin has a 103 OPS+ and a .273 batting average, which is good enough for second-best on the team behind only José Iglesias. The Cincinnati Reds offense has been so poor this season that Ervin had the chance to shine.
Phillip Ervin has been around replacement-level the past two years, with 0.1 and -0.4 WAR the past two seasons, albeit in limited appearances. This season, however, Ervin has 0.9 WAR, which translates to around 2.5 over a full season.
As mentioned earlier, the outfield seemed set at the beginning of the season. Starting in June, Reds skipper David Bell began platooning Ervin with Winker in left field. Had Bell not given Eervin that opportunity, the 27-year-old likely would have been relegated to a bench role, only coming in the game to pinch hit or as a defensive replacement.
Additionally, trading Puig at the July 31st deadline left the Reds short one outfielder, allowing Ervin more playing time. With Puig and Trammell both gone, there seems to be a hole in the outfield this coming season, meaning that Ervin might get a chance to take over where it was believed the organization’s top prospect would play.
Since June, Ervin has received priority playing time in the Reds lineup over September call-ups like Brian O’Grady and Josh Van Meter. Ervin has played in 23 games during the final month of the season and has played all three outfield positions.
With the Cincinnati Reds expecting to compete in 2020, Phillip Ervin needed to prove that he is good enough to have a spot on a major league team. Ervin had to show that he is just as good or better than the likes of Senzel, Winker, and any other outfield free agent or trade target the Reds might consider. He did just that and looks to be a solid piece for the Reds heading into next season.