The middle of September is an odd time in baseball. Major league teams are either fighting for a spot in the playoffs or watching their chances at playing in October dwindle. Rosters have expanded, leaving even some of the most attentive fans sometimes wondering who is actually on the field. And minor league baseball, a cultural summer staple in many smaller cities and areas, is coming to a close.
With Reading’s exit from the Eastern League’s playoffs at the hands of the Trenton Thunder, the Phillies’ minor league teams have all officially ended their seasons. Despite the early ending to the minor league season, there was no shortage of talent in the system. The Phillies had 19 mid-season All Stars across all five levels, plus two players recognized as seasonal All Stars in the Gulf Coast League.
The standout stars were a mixed bag of pitchers and position players, early-round draft picks and undrafted free agents, and new players and players who have been in the system for a few years. In order to accurately decide who was the best of the best this season, we wanted to get the fans of The Good Phight to weigh in.
There were a bunch of players nominated, including Mickey Moniak, Kyle Glogoski, Austin Listi, Deivy Grullon, and Austin Bossart, who was traded in-season to the Mets for Jason Vargas.
But when it came down to it, there were two players who stood out the most this season, both to the staff at The Good Phight and to the fans: Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard. If you’ve paid any attention to the Phillies minor leagues this season, or you’ve read any of the Good Phil articles, these two names should be familiar to you. They’ve won a combined seven Good Phil of the Week awards and are, without a doubt, the top two prospects for the Phillies.
The votes cast for these two players were overwhelming, as combined they received nearly 80% of your nominations. We even received votes from Spencer Howard’s parents, who of course had wonderful things to say about him (Hi Jackie and Kevin!).
Here are some of the things you guys said about Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard:
Every single one of these comments is valid. Even the one about Alec Bohm’s hair. And yes, different people voted for Howard and Bohm with just the comment “Stud.”
Alec Bohm’s season was absolutely staggering, especially considering he was promoted twice. Typically players falter at some point when they move this quickly through the ranks, but not Bohm. Across Single A, Advanced A and Double A, he slashed .305/.378/.518 with 21 home runs, 30 doubles, 80 RBIs and 76 runs scored. While those numbers were helped by playing against lower competition in both Lakewood and Clearwater, he still slashed an impressive .269/.344/.500 in 63 games with Reading, where he collected 14 of his 21 home runs and 42 of his 80 RBIs. Bohm was a mid-season All Star for Clearwater, and represented the Phillies at the MLB Futures Game in Cleveland. He’s currently considered the Phillies’ top overall prospect, and ranks #34 in the entire league. If that isn’t enough to impress you, here’s an incredible stat provided by a member of The Good Phight’s staff: According to FanGraphs, Bohm was fourth in the minors in wRC+ (147) among players with at least 500 plate appearances. The only players ahead of him were Luis Robert (CWS #1/MLB #5), Luis Castro (COL unranked) and Gavin Lux (LAD #1/MLB #9).
Not to be outdone, Spencer Howard had a phenomenal season as well. A two-month-long stint on the injured list early in the season limited him to just 13 non-rehab starts, but he made the best of the games he played in 2019. After his return from the IR in early July, Howard posted a 2-0 record over nine games. He pitched 45.2 innings and allowed just eight earned runs, equating to a 1.58 era. He struck out 56 batters over that time, while walking just ten. Most of those games came after his promotion to Double-A Reading in late July. Over the full season, including his two rehab starts in the Gulf Coast League, he posted a 2.03 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP with 94 strikeouts in 71.0 innings pitched. He held his opponents to a .173 average. In his only start in the post-season this year, he allowed just one run on two hits over 7.0 innings against the Trenton Thunder. He struck out a career-high 12 batters.
It’s explicitly clear that the Phillies have two exceptionally talented players at the top of their prospect list, there’s no denying it. That makes this decision extremely difficult in the best possible way. Who do you reward, the guy who was dominant the entire season over three levels or the guy who was arguably even more dominant, but missed two months of the season with injury? The guy who started off the season as the clear-cut top prospect in the system and spent the entire season proving why he was there, or the guy who started the season ranked lower and proved himself as one of the top prospects, not just in the organization, but in the entire league?
Unfortunately, while I would love to cheat the system that I created and reward them both, only one can be named the Minor League Good Phil of the Year.
In the end, the player who comes out on top is Alec Bohm.
In this case, the time missed due to injury is what made the difference. Bohm was dominant, consistent, reliable and healthy for five months, while Howard was dominant, consistent, reliable and healthy for only three months. That injury time, especially when taking into consideration the fact that Howard is a starting pitcher and therefore plays less often to begin with, was the difference in how much impact the two players had on their teams.