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.

19 Responses

  1. cfd3000

    The Reds offense is left handed heavy. Votto, Schebler, Winker, Gennett and two switch hitters, Hamilton and Barnhart. On many days only Suarez and Peraza are true right handers, and only Suarez has real power. That argues even more for getting Ervin more at bats. The Preston Tucker / Mason Williams show has been uninspiring. Ervin has more potential, at the same or younger age and has shown more actual good hitting than either of those lefties. Burying Ervin in the bench and, when he does start, way down in the 7 slot, is another wasted opportunity. I hope he plays more, not less, as the Reds realize that neither Tucker nor Williams is a valuable long term piece.

    Free Philip!

  2. Hanawi

    Well the Reds just called up Aristedes Aquino so now they have another corner OF too sit on the bench.

    • Sabr Chris

      Look at today’s lineup…Barnhart 1B

  3. Bill J

    Doing the same over that has failed is insane.

  4. Jack

    It seems like they are doing the same thing to Ervin that they did to Winker. Play him once in a blue moon and bat him 7th when he does play . I’m starting to think this is a 10 year rebuild.

    • mikekelsch

      A 10 year rebuild; imagine the choice draft picks and how highly rated our farm system will be in 2027? I’m starting to relate to what Pirates fans went through.

  5. Hanawi

    It was actually a 3 man rotation for the corners with Billy playing every day in CF. Though Ervin and Williams are more than competent to play there.

  6. Jeff Reed

    It seems like Ervin has been up and down with the Reds forever. It’s time to find out where he fits in the scheme of things as regards the rebuild or else let him go in a trade.

    • Ashley Davis

      I agree. It’s not like he’s a lower round draft selection. He’s a first round pick who has had some good seasons in the minor leagues.

  7. Ashley Davis

    Thanks for pointing that out about innings in LF in the minors. It’s probably because Schebler is out right now that he plays more in RF.

  8. Sabr Chris

    Winkler, Schebler, and Votto on the DL yet can’t find a spot in the lineup for Ervin or Herrera.

  9. Sabr Chris

    As an organization the Reds overvalue Defense.

    • big5ed

      Can’t agree with that one. They stink defensively at every position other than catcher and Billy Hamilton. Ervin catches the ball pretty well, but has lousy footwork with his throws, and has the least effective arm that I’ve seen in a long time. He makes Kal Daniels look like Roberto Clemente, although I do think he can improve by leaps and bounds.

    • Jeff Reed

      Really? As a fan since the late 1940’s I recall few periods when the Reds were not an outstanding defensive team with the present being one of them.

      • Mike V

        Agreed .. I’ve been a fan since the early 60’s and I concur with you. And they are certainly not a bad defensive team now

  10. Michael Hutton

    Ervin has far more at bats and games played than Tucker and Williams combined this season so I really don’t see what you are so upset about…

  11. Scott C

    That is a scary lineup the Reds are putting out there tonight. Giants are probably loving it. No Dilson. No Phil. But plenty of Mason and Preston.

  12. Kap

    My low key trade suggestion this winter: Reds trade Phillip Ervin and ole Bob Steve to the Rays for Mallex Smith.

    Smith, in my opinion, is vastly underrated. Has stats better than Billy across the board, younger, and cheaper. Ervin isn’t valued that much in Cincy but could be used as an interesting trade piece to the right team.

  13. roger garrett

    One thing is for sure this brain trust that runs the Reds will never be accused to actually have a brain.They aren’t even considered the laughing stock of the league any more because there isn’t anything left to laugh about.Billy and Bob are happy.You didn’t think Billy was going to go the whole year hitting ninth did you?