Ervin Pounds Four Hits

Phil Ervin’s debut in 2013 made Cincinnati look like bandits for getting his services with one of the final picks in the first round of that year’s draft. Recovery from wrist surgery sidelined his progress last year, but he was promoted to high-A Daytona anyway in a move that is paying off dividends for the Tortugas.

Daytona came out of the gate with a four run first inning and cruised to a 10-1 win at Bradenton Friday. Phillip Ervin, Alex Blandino, and Sebastian Elizalde started the rally with hits that produced the first run before Robert Ramirez cleared loaded bases with a double. Ervin struck again the next frame when he doubled and scored on a hit by the next batter, Junior Arias. The Tortugas blew the game open in the third when Carlton Daal delivered an RBI-hit and Ervin followed with a two-run single. Erving drove in two more with a single in the fifth and a groundout in the seventh.

Ervin led the potent attack by going 4-6 with four RBI and two runs. Ramirez and Chad Wallach added three hits apiece while Daal and Alex Blandino finished with two each. On the mound Nick Travieso turned in another solid outing. He didn’t finish the sixth, but got close with five and two-thirds scoreless innings over which he allowed six hits. Nolan Becker relieved him to put out a fire and tossed one scoreless frame and Alejandro Chacin closed the game with his third scoreless appearance since arriving from Dayton.

It was the first four-hit game of the season for Ervin and the second of his professional career. After a disappointing season when he hit only .237 at Dayton last year it appears that Cincinnati’s 2013 first-round selection is getting back on track with his development. After a splendid debut he crashed into some top 100 MLB prospect lists, but surgery on his wrist the following offseason likely contributed to the falloff in production and omission from them before this season.

The former Samford outfielder improved his draft stock during his third collegiate season to prompt the Reds to invest the 27th overall selection on him and that looked like a steal after he torched Pioneer League pitching during the 2013 short season and hit .349 in a dozen games at Dayton. It’s speculation, but perhaps there were other reasons for his high selection. No doubt the talent was there, he profiles as a multi-tooled outfielder with a well-rounded game. Also, after playing three collegiate seasons Cincinnati was able to sign him without going over the recommended slot value. Finally, at his age they might have been hopeful that he would be MLB ready quicker and offer some solutions to the turnover in the Reds outfield in the not-to-distant future.

Now at the age of 22 (23 in July) he’s hitting .262 AVG/.356 OB with nine homers in 47 games while the Reds are trying to get some mileage out of veteran Marlin Byrd. Ervin started out the season like gangbusters, hitting .246 AVG/.429 OB/7 HR over 21 games in April. Maintaining that start throughout the season was probably a bit much to ask, and he started out 17-99 in May before his outburst Friday. Still, it’s easy to expect him to finish with a solid full season and maybe even get a crack at AA pitching in 2015. The top of the Cincinnati prospect lists is top-heavy with pitchers while the Reds have the second lowest runs/game average in the National League. The success, or lack thereof, of the parent team figures to trigger a rebuilding movement, but that might be compromised by some veterans with contracts that will be difficult to move. Still, it appears that Cincinnati is in for some significant turnover and pending what talent they can bring in from outside the organization, there isn’t a lot of competition for hitting prospects to move up to the top level. Erving doesn’t figure to enter the mix in 2015, but a solid season could put him back on the radar for a serious look next year.

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