Two months ago I ranked Phillip Ervin as the Cincinnati Reds 14th best prospect. One month ago I wrote up the season review and scouting report on the outfielder. However, there was something that I didn’t bring up. It’s something worth talking about today.

Pensacola has always been a place that’s been very friendly to right handed hitters that pull the baseball. Phillip Ervin is a right handed hitter who has big pull tendencies. In 2016 he managed to hit just .239 for the Blue Wahoos. He slugged just .399, though the .160 isolated power was not bad. Of course, the part about Pensacola playing well for right handed pull hitters didn’t hold true in 2016.

The stadium in Pensacola moved back the fences in left and left-center to accommodate a college football team. The stadium went from a proverbial launching pad into a stadium where power to left and left-center was actually tough to hit for compared to the rest of the Southern League.

For the last three seasons it’s been the batting average that’s held back the overall production for Phillip Ervin. In 2016 he walked 65 times with just 88 strikeouts, a strong ratio for the two stats. He was also very successful on the base paths, stealing 36 bags in 46 attempts.

It all comes back to the batting average holding back the other numbers. We know that Pensacola didn’t help out right handed pull hitters in 2016. Let’s look at his home/road splits during the season:

Split PA 2B 3B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG
Home 250 11 2 3 42 50 .191 .348 .312
Away 255 11 1 10 23 38 .282 .376 .477

Look at the incredible difference between the two. It’s enormous. There was plenty of batting average on balls in play difference (.236 at home, .301 on the road). That plays a role, but the power was also significantly higher on the road. In five more plate appearances he hit more than three times as many home runs.

There’s always a chance that there’s just some randomness at play with home/road splits. And there likely is some of that happening here. But, given that we know that the home park played against right handed pull hitters in 2016, maybe there’s something we should be paying more attention to in the numbers.

At home, Phillip Ervin had a .660 OPS. That’s 25 points lower than the league average was in 2016. On the road he was able to post an .854 OPS, which is 169 points better than the league average was. If the Phillip Ervin that showed up on the road in the Southern League in 2016 is closer to the real version of Phillip Ervin than the one that played in Pensacola, then there’s a real chance that he could be severely underrated by my rankings (and very likely the other rankings out there that haven’t been released yet).

24 Responses

  1. Reaganspad

    Doug,

    You are worth every dollar sent to you

    Great read. Go Phillip!

  2. Chris

    In the same sense wouldn’t do a lot to hurt pitching metrics for our wahoo pitchers? May be worth looking into.
    If rightfield pull hitters struggled hitting maybe it also helped a lot of our pitchers look better than they actually are. Thoughts?

    • Doug Gray

      The park certainly played out as pitcher friendly in 2016. In the past, though, it’s been very hitter friendly overall (though probably hurt left handed hitters, or guys like Yorman Rodriguez and Seth Mejias-Brean who are righties, but go the other way a lot).

  3. Chris

    For example just look at Tyler Mahle stats home vs. away. Interesting outlook Doug Thanks

  4. Norwood Nate

    Thanks for looking into this and writing about it. I’ve remained high on Ervin despite the BA issues, and it’s good to see a reasonable explanation for some of the struggles.

  5. Brad

    I’m high on Ervin. Floor of a 4th of you can play CF on a part-time basis. Ceiling of an average to slightly above average everyday RF. Lot to like in RF with Ervin and Aquino coming being Schebler.

    Do you have him return to Pensacola or start him in Louisville for 2017?

  6. Jordan

    First of all, Doug, just wanted to say you’ve been absolutely killing it when it comes to content lately, especially over the holidays. I thoroughly enjoyed reading each article posted over the last week or so, and as the top comment here says, every dollar I throw your way is totally worth it.

    I’ve been saying people are low on Phil Ervin for this exact same reason ever since he’s been in Pensacola. Although excuses should never be made, it’s clear to see why Ervin’s statistics have been the way they have been throughout his development.

    I say call him up to Louisville to start 2017 and see how he does. A .250/.350/.450 line in Louisville would certainly open some eyes. Instead of talking so much about Aquino, we need to be focusing on Ervin as potentially the next good Reds Right Fielder.

    • RFM

      Yeah, a bunch of good content lately in the deadest most boring time of the year.

      Ervin to Louisville after 140 games and 571 plate appearances in Pensacola with 78 BBs, 103 Ks, and a .368 OBP seems like a no-brainer. He needs to make better use of strikes, but the numbers don’t suggest (to me) that he’s being particularly confused by AA pitching.

      I don’t see how staying in AA would help Ervin better address and improve upon his pull tendency. If he’s not swinging at bad pitches and being confused, he can address the prior concern just as easily at the next level.

      • reaganspad

        Doug,

        Would it be possible to compare Ervin’s work in the park against all other league RH hitters?

        The post by Chris above asked what this does to increase the abilities of our pitching staff and that is a good question.

        I would think at the same time, we would see the League RH batting in that park being isolated as well. That might be very interesting to see how Phillip compares there

  7. wes

    I thought he had a very good season last year. He was always on the stat line doing something. I think he’s top 10 in the system today.

  8. mace

    Of all the discrepancies there, the one that seems most exaggerated, fundamental, and perplexing is the percentage of balls put in play (contact rate). Using just the Ks and BBs, at home he put the ball in play 158 times out of 250 (.632 contact rate); on the road 194 out of 255 (.761). That suggests a difference in approach when he played in Pensacola, or perhaps visibility. Other than that, I couldn’t explain it, unless, perhaps, he played hurt during an extended homestand or two.

    • Doug Gray

      There’s certainly something to that. Lower strikeout rate on the road, lower walk rate, slightly lesser K/BB rate, too.

  9. Hod Eller

    Good article. Thanks, Doug, for keeping things a little warmer around the hot stove. Ervin’s peripherals suggest a hitter who can advance, and his versatility and speed have always made him an intriguing prospect. If he can boost the BA a bit, he gives the system another strong player. Hope to see him in Louisville next season.

  10. DaveCT

    This is very encouraging. Ervin’s on base skills, speed, base running skills, power, and defense all suggest RF to me. Not just as a testament to the org.’s patience but also as a prospective on base complement to Winker in LF, as well as to the Votto/Senzel pairing on the infield corners. Taken with the Peraza, Suarez, and Herrera trio and BHam up the middle, there’s some noteworthy talent. Now, the recovery, or not, of Mesoraco might determine an elite offense versus merely a very good one. But with supporting pieces of Barnhart, Schebler, Duval, Renda, Alcantara, Selsky, and with guys pushing from below such as Trammell, Friedl, Long, Blandino, Acquino, Trahan, Okey, and in time, Kyle Stephenson, this almost suddenly is a nice looking group.

  11. Nick Miller

    As always, great analysis Doug! I think we will definitely see major improvement from Phillip! Those away numbers are encouraging for the former first rounder!

  12. William Kubas

    The most interesting question that was posed, is “What is the starting lineup for the 2017 Louisville Bats?” There seems to be a dam now being formed at both the AAA and AA level in the Cincinnati Reds’ organization.
    Senzel is easy, start at High A Daytona Beach.

    • RFM

      I have no idea about the lineup order, but I do want to share my prediction:
      1b – Richie Shaffer
      2b – Dilson Herrera
      3b – Alex Blandino
      SS – Zach Vincej
      LF – Phil Ervin (or CF over Amaral?)
      CF – Beau Amaral (or bench?)
      RF – Jesse Winker
      C – Wallach/whoever

      Others:
      2b/OF Brandon Dixon (201 games in AA)
      2b/OF Tony Renda (assuming he doesn’t make Reds bench)
      INF/OF Hernan Iribarren

      That’ll be an interesting lineup to watch, whatever the order is.

      • William Kubas

        I know nothing about Shaffer, Herrera, Amaral or Winker……..but as a Daytona Tortugas then Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ internet broadcast fan the last two years, the rest of the lineup is very famaliar to me.
        If Blandino cracked the Bats’ lineup, the Bats play in Syracuse in July ( my closest opportunity, I live in Eastern Canada) but very expensive, even more than seeing Leake at Citi Fiels or the Stadium.

    • Gaffer

      I think this article shows that Ervin has more value to us than trade. What team wants him? My take is that the Reds paid a lot in trade value a year ago to get some hitters that were not much better than Ervin. Heck, Schebler is the anti Ervin. He strikes out a ton, But has put up decent counting stats. Peraza is also anti Ervin in that he only has a decent BA, but no walls. Phil may not be much better than a 1-2 WAR player but I am not sure we have many guys cleatly better right now.

      • Hingle McCringleberry

        The amazing thing is that other teams cast offs are much better than the reds number 1 draft picks. Thats how bad the club’s scouting and development is.

  13. Michael B. Green

    Given his age, Ervin is sure to start at AAA. Add in the first round pick pedigree and the additional organizational opportunities from such, and you have the promotion to LOU.

    Unless he falls apart, we’ll see him in CIN in 2017. I am very intrigued with his tools.