With Philadelphia Phillies Opening Day on Friday, look at Alec Bohm’s case to be the starting third baseman
Alec Bohm wrapped up the final days of spring training still battling for the third baseman job with the Philadelphia Phillies. The 2020 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up went head-to-head with this season’s top prospect, Bryson Stott, and despite Stott vastly outpacing Bohm, both made the Opening Day roster.
Stott primarily plays shortstop, but the team also started him at third base in four of his last seven spring training games dating back to the beginning of this week; he also got some time in at second. He hit .429 over 12 games, while Bohm hit almost half that. His .226 AVG over 12 games was actually far lower for most of the spring, but a home run and a few hits gave his numbers a much-needed boost. Still, Bohm had fewer hits in more at-bats than Stott.
The team added to its offense during the off-season, with the signings of Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and Johan Camargo. Additionally, former first-overall pick Mickey Moniak was recently told that he made the opening day roster. Bohm and Stott both made the roster, but they won’t both start the season, as the Phillies also have Didi Gregorius at shortstop.
Bohm had a stellar rookie campaign during the shortened 2020 season, slashing .338/.400/.481, with 11 doubles, four HR, and 23 RBI in 44 games. He finished runner-up to reliever Devin Williams in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Unfortunately, his sophomore season was a different story. Bohm struggled to a .247/.305/.342 line with seven HR and 47 RBI, in 115 games; his OPS dropped from .881 to .647. He also struggled defensively, with 16 errors (second-most on the team), a .939 fielding percentage (worst among regular position players on the team), and a team-worse -1.4 defensive WAR.
The offensive struggles carried over into spring training this year, where he went 2-for-21, with a double and an RBI, in his first eight games of the shortened pre-season.
Despite his recent slumps, there are reasons why Alec Bohm should still be the Phillies’ starting third baseman
Bohm was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in late August, where he hit .271, with one HR and six RBI, in 15 games. That included going 6-for-14, with the aforementioned home run and two of those RBIs, in his last three games in the minors.
While in Triple-A, he showed that he could make adjustments and improve if given the opportunity. The same can be said for this pre-season, where he went 5-for-10, with a solo homer, in his last four games. That’s nearly three times the hits in less than half of the at-bats compared to his start. He’ll also continue to benefit from two new additions to the Phillies’ staff, hitting coach Kevin Long and infield coach Bobby Dickerson. Long worked with Schwarber last season, and he produced the best offensive year of his career.
"“What I really like that [Long] is preaching to me and everybody is just be closer to the hitting position,” Bohm told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “Simplify everything. For me, it’s just a touch wider [stance]. I don’t know if it looks a whole lot different, but for me, it feels a lot more under control in the stride and all of that.”"
While offense is one thing, an improvement to defense is perhaps even more important for Bohm at the hot corner. That’s something Dickerson can help with.
"“What he’s doing, I feel it on the field,” Bohm told Zolecki. “It works. I think he has everybody believing in it…He’s really just separating the catch and the throw. Instead of thinking about fielding it in one big thing and you’re trying to throw while you’re catching it, he’s really preaching separating the catch and the throw.”"
Yes, Bohm struggled last year, but it was just one season, and his first full season in the majors, at that. He was brought up the farm system quickly, moving from rookie ball in 2018 to the majors in 2020, with no experience higher than Double-A. Yet he made the adjustments to impress in his rookie season at the sport’s highest level.
One bad season shouldn’t mean benching or banishing a player, especially so early in his career. The third-overall pick of the 2018 MLB draft deserves a chance to begin this season as the Phillies’ starting third baseman. He’s making adjustments with lessons learned from new coaches and made a late push in spring training. Considering his overall resumé, there’s reason to believe that he can continue to improve if given the chance.