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The 2015 season could not have started out better for Phillip Ervin. The outfielder homered in the first game of the season and continued the power show for the entire month of April. At the end of the month, in just 21 games, the outfielder had a .346/.429/.692 line with seven home runs and six doubles. He also drew 12 walks and had just 16 strikeouts.
For as good as April was, things slowed down to a crawl in May. The power disappeared and the walk rate lowered from the month before. In 28 games his line dropped to .211/.287/.298 with just six extra-base hits. He walked just 10 times in 130 plate appearances, but kept a similar strikeout rate as he showed in April (17%). The plate discipline was good, but he struggled to hit.
June was a step in the right direction as he showed improvements across the board, but it was still a bit of a struggle at times. In 85 plate appearances he would hit .236/.341/.347 with 11 walks and 11 strikeouts. Once again he showed strong plate discipline, but he failed to show the power, hitting just two doubles and two home runs in the month.
July was another struggle for Ervin. He would hit just .222/.327/.296 on the month with 10 walks and 18 strikeouts. His plate discipline was good in his 98 plate appearances on the month, and he stole eight bases. The problem was that lack of power once again. With just three doubles and a home run, the month of April with nearly a .700 slugging percentage was a distant memory.
August began with another rough start. In 17 games with Daytona he would hit just .200/.324/.250. He would draw 10 walks and strike out just 15 times, continuing to show quality plate discipline, but the power simply wasn’t there once again. Despite some struggles, he was promoted to Double-A Pensacola on the 20th and was leading the Florida State League in home runs when he was promoted. He would spend the final two-and-a-half weeks with the Blue Wahoos where he would hit .235/.409/.412. The plate discipline showed up again, this time with 13 walks and 15 strikeouts.
At first glance, the numbers don’t look like much for Ervin, but when you look closer you can see plenty to like. He posted a .713 OPS in Daytona, which was much better than the league average of .650. He then went to Pensacola and in just under three weeks posted an .812 OPS, which is 112 points higher than the league average in the Southern League. He struggled to hit for much of an average, but his on-base sills were on display throughout the season and he showed a good amount of power as well – though it did come in spurts and wasn’t consistent over the course of the season. On top of his hitting, Ervin would also steal 34 bases in 44 attempts (77%).
Hitting | Ervin could be an average hitter in the future, but he’s going to have to adjust his approach some. In April he was able to take full advantage of pitchers throwing him on the inner half of the plate and pulled everything. Pitchers adjusted and it took him a while to adjust back to the outside half of the plate.
Power | Ervin has 20-25 home run potential in his bat, but his power is entirely to the pull side. Of his 31 career minor league home runs, one of them wasn’t pulled to left field. It was a home run to center field that was hit in the thin air in the Arizona Fall League earlier this year.
Running | Despite back-to-back 30 stolen base seasons, Ervin is just an above-average runner. He’s faster than he looks while running and moves quite well.
Arm | While his assist total was an impressive 15 in the 2015 season, Ervin merely shows off an average arm.
Defense | In center field Ervin is probably a fringy defender. He can probably handle the position but isn’t going to be an asset at the position from the defensive standpoint. In the corners, where he had been a less than stellar defender, he took steps forward again this season as he improved his reads and now stands out as a defender.
The 2015 season was an interesting one. On one hand, Ervin got out to an incredible start and struggled the rest of the way. On the other hand, he took several steps forward from where he was in 2014. He improved his walk rate significantly and cut his strikeout rate some despite jumping up in competition. The power was inconsistent, but he flashed it and showed what he is capable of and in a league that suppresses power in big ways.
If Ervin is able to stick in center field, his value will likely be quite a bit higher. If he has to move to a corner the value will take a hit, but there could still be plenty of value with good defense, power and a potential for 20 steals. Just how much his hit tool develops will be key, but all of the parts are there for him to put that side of things together.