Cincinnati Reds: The universal DH will allow Phillip Ervin to shine

GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 28: Phillip Ervin #6 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 28: Phillip Ervin #6 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Phillip Ervin may be the Reds most underrated player.

This baseball season will be unlike any we’ve ever seen. While a lot of fans are focused on the 60-game season, the universal DH will add a uniqueness to the 2020 season. While a lot of Cincinnati Reds fans detest the idea of the designated hitter, this year’s team will thrive with the additional bat. No one more so, perhaps, than Phillip Ervin.

Ervin always seems to be the odd-man-out. Two years ago, the outfield consisted of Scott Schebler, Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton. Jesse Winker began to break into the starting lineup, and the trade of Duvall allowed the former first-round pick to have a more prominent role in the everyday lineup.

However, an injury to Winker opened the door for Ervin to gain some valuable experience in 2018. After playing in just 28 games during 2017, Ervin gathered another 78 games under his belt in 2018 while slashing .252/.324/.404. Last year, represented a big leap forward for Ervin, but he was still overshadowed on the roster.

In 2019, the Reds Opening Day outfield was comprised of Winker, Yasiel Puig and Scott Schebler. Ervin was left off the 25-man roster despite outplaying every outfielder in spring training. Eventually, following Schebler’s struggles, Nick Senzel was promoted. Ervin finally received a call-up and made the most of it.

Last season, Ervin played a career-high 94 games and let loose on opposing pitchers, especially lefties. On the season, Ervin slashed .271/.331/.466, but against southpaws, Ervin hit .349/.411/.628. Ervin had career-highs in doubles (11), triples (7) and OPS (.797).

Now, I’m not advocating that Ervin be the Reds primary designated hitter, not by a long stretch. In fact, I think Ervin deserves a more prominent role in the outfield. While not an elite-level defender, Ervin offers better skills in the field than both Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker.

Ervin spent the majority of the 2019 season in both left field, though he saw some time in both center and right field as well. Overall, according to FanGraphs, Ervin recorded 6 defensive runs saved (DRS) which was a drastic improvement from his -6 DRS in 2018. Castellanos and Winker put up -9 DRS and -4 DRS respectively.

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Ervin’s versatility, power and speed are all attributes that should land the 28-year-old a regular spot in the lineup. While I don’t think Phillip Ervin, himself, will benefit from playing the the role of designated hitter, the added bat will enable Reds skipper David Bell to put the Alabama-native in position to make an impact.