The Mariners announced Thursday that they’ve claimed outfielder Phil Ervin off waivers from the Reds, who’d designated him for assignment earlier in the week. Seattle also added right-hander Walker Lockett, another recent waiver claim, to the active roster.
Now 28 years old, Ervin was the 27th overall selection in the draft by the Reds back in 2013. He’s struggled immensely at the plate in 2020, going 3-for-35 with eight strikeouts and six walks. There’s some poor luck at play, evidenced by a ghastly .111 average on balls in play, but Ervin’s hard-hit rate has plummeted from 34.6 percent in 2018 to just 18.5 percent in 2020, per Statcast. He’s always been prone to weak contact when he doesn’t barrel the ball (career 85.4 mph exit velocity), but Ervin’s contact has been weak across the board in 2020.
That said, the 2020 season is a sample of just 42 plate appearances, and Ervin was a roughly league-average bat in parts of three prior seasons. From 2017-19, the former Samford University star hit .262/.326/.438 (98 wRC+ and OPS+) with 17 home runs, 23 doubles, eight triples and 14 stolen bases in 571 trips to the plate. He has experience at all three outfield positions but grades out much better in a corner than he has in his more limited sample of 283 center field innings (-1 DRS, -3.7 UZR).
Ervin doesn’t have minor league options remaining, so he’ll need to stick on the big league club or else be designated for assignment a second time. For now, he’ll give the Mariners a right-handed-hitting backup option in the outfield — one who could potentially fill that role again in future seasons if he shows well in his forthcoming audition.