The 2015 season was a bit of a rebound for Phillip Ervin, even though it may have been hidden somewhat by the league he was playing in.
After a fantastic debut in the 2013 season when he was drafted 27th overall in the 1st round, hitting .331/.425/.564 that season with 25 walks and 34 strikeouts, things went about as poorly as they could in 2014. The outfielder hit .237/.305/.376 with 46 walks and 110 strikeouts in 561 plate appearances for the Dayton Dragons.
Part of that could be blamed on offseason wrist surgery (an injury that cost him the final few weeks of the 2013 campaign), but it was also a bit of a mental hurdle he struggled with. After a slow start, Ervin noted that he knew he was struggling and was pressing, trying to get everything back in one swing. It led to poor pitch selection for most of the season and ultimately, as expected when you swing at poor pitches, struggles to hit.
Things got out to about as great of a start as can be expected in the month of April. The outfielder was sent to the Florida State League to play for the new affiliate in the chain, the Daytona Tortugas. Ervin hit .346/.429/.692 with six doubles and seven home runs. His OPS on the month was an incredible 1.121 in a league where the average OPS was .650.
He showed big time power in the month and more importantly, he seemed to resemble the guy the Cincinnati Reds drafted in 2013 who was patient at the plate, drew walks and made contact. He walked 12 times and struck out 16 times in 91 plate appearances.
The power tailed off in the following months, going from a .346 isolated power in April to posting an isolated power the rest of the season of just .095. While the power did tail off the plate discipline remained strong. He walked 54 times and struck out just 82 times in 450 plate appearances.
Overall on the season he hit .241/.346/.379. On the surface that simply doesn’t look all that good. Most of that came in the Florida State League though. He led that league in home runs when he was promoted to Double-A in August. The average on-base percentage of the league was just .313 and the average slugging was just just .337.
With the step taken forward for Ervin, it was nice to see, but there are still parts of his game that he could improve upon. He’s very pull-centric when it comes to hitting for power. Since being drafted all 30 of his home runs have been hit to left or left-center. Of his 35 extra-base hits only one of them was to right field, a bloop double. One double went to right-center. The other 33 extra-base hits went to dead center, left-center or left field. He can and does go the other way, but he simply doesn’t hit for power when he goes the other way at this point.