Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have justifiably been distracted in recent weeks by two names. But while Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are gathering contract offers and making their final decisions, perhaps we can take some time to talk about other topics related to the ball club?
There are other possible Hot Stove situations further out on the horizon that have also received some attention from the fans. One of those could come next Fall, when third baseman Nolan Arenado is due to become a free agent if he and the Colorado Rockies cannot reach a contract extension.
Having acquired Jean Segura via trade earlier this off-season, the Phillies would like Machado to play third base for them. If that were to come to pass, then the hot corner would be filled for the foreseeable future.
However, should the club fail to land Machado this year or Arenado next, the Phillies future third baseman could already be in the organization. And I’m not talking about incumbent Maikel Franco.
Last June the Phillies made Alec Bohm of Wichita State University their choice in the first round at third overall in the MLB Amateur Draft. With an advanced bat, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of seasons before Bohm is ready for a crack at the big-leagues.
When Bohm was drafted there were many who speculated he would eventually end up at first base or an outfield corner. But as the Phillies (hopefully) learned this past season with the Rhys Hoskins left field experiment, you cannot simply stick a player in the outfield and hope that his bat makes up for defensive deficiencies.
Hoskins is not a left fielder and never will be one. Nothing about Bohm suggests that he would be a solid defender out there either. With Hoskins now apparently back and settled in at first base for years to come, that position presents more than a roadblock to Bohm.
Based on what we know at this point, Bohm is the Phillies third baseman of the future. As the RotoWire staff pointed out for CBS Sports, if the 6’5 Bohm were to make it and become a regular at the position he would be bucking the odds. Troy Glaus and Kris Bryant are the only players 6-foot-5 or taller to have ever played 200 games at the position in the majors.
Neither Glaus, who bashed 320 homers over a 13-year big-league career from 1998-2010, or Bryant who is one of today’s premier power hitters, would ever be considered a defensive whiz. Their bats were their calling cards.
There is little doubt that the bat will be what carries Bohm as well. If anyone knows hitting, it’s Charlie Manuel. The Phillies 2008 World Series-winning manager was quoted on that bat by Jim Salisbury for Baseball America back in November:
“He’s going to hit. He’s going to be a line-drive hitter with power. He’s going to be an RBI guy. He’s a tough out. He doesn’t like to strike out and he can really get on the fastball. We’d turn the machine up to 100, 105 (mph) in the cage and he can get to it. I liked him in college and I like him more now.”
Both Schmidt and Rolen were premier athletes who were not only dynamic offensive contributors but were also among the greatest defenders to ever play third base in the history of the game.
That defensive performance is where Bohm is going to have to show improvement if he wants to last at the position in Major League Baseball. This past Fall he spent four weeks working on that aspect of his game in the Instructional League.
“He wants to silence everybody. He’s come out with the work ethic and desire to prove people wrong. He’s done nothing but prove to us that he can play third.” ~ Chris Truby, on Bohm
“When you’re in college and the bat is your thing, you go to the next level and you realize that you need a little bit more than that, and I think he knows that.”
Work in the IL is an important part of the developmental process. Now entering his first year as a professional baseball player, Bohm will continue that work in spring training and on into his first full season. That work in practice and then the experience gained in real games will be the telling point.
His bat should allow Bohm to reach Double-A Reading by the end of this coming summer. Assuming health and continued expected development, he would see Triple-A Lehigh Valley by some point in the summer of 2020.
That would put the Omaha, Nebraska native in line to contend for a starting job in the Phillies lineup by spring training of 2021 when he would be 24 years of age.
Schmidt was 23 for his first full season in 1973, Rolen just 22 for his first full season in 1997. Franco was also just 22 when he took over the position in 2015. So that is certainly a more than reasonable track for Bohm to be on.
Most fans seem to be writing off any chance of Franco remaining a part of the Phillies future for much longer. That is somewhat difficult to understand considering that he is still just 26-years-old and hit for a career-high .270 average last season, when a shoulder injury severely hampered his production over the final month of September .
The incumbent Franco? The free agent Machado? The future free agent Arenado? The developing Bohm? The third base position should prove one of the most compelling situations as the Phillies look to construct a roster that can contend throughout the 2020’s as they did through all of the 2000’s.
NOTE: special thanks for photos and video provided by “Baseball Betsy” – be sure to visit her site at that link!
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