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Should we ever have hope again for a Phillies prospect?

Someone put Mick Abel in bubble wrap

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Alec Bohm was demoted to Lehigh Valley on Sunday. The move was a little surprising, but it also makes a lot of sense. In the middle of a pennant race and having struggled defensively for the entire year, the team used that excuse to send him to the minors in order to better the big league team.

“I think we just got to the point that we felt like this was the combination of the best thing for him and the best thing for us,” Phillies general manager Sam Fuld said.

Nevermind the fact that Bohm has actually been outhitting one of the players on the team that was starting over him during this rough stretch.

It’s been pretty clear for a while now that Bohm has fallen out of favor with Joe Girardi, be it because of his defense, his lack of power, Girardi’s preference for playing veterans, whatever, this move has felt inevitable. He could come back when rosters expand in a few days, but with only two players allowed to come up, it’s more likely that the team carries two extra pitchers. That means there is a real possibility that Bohm’s season in Philadelphia, barring an injury, has come to a close.

It shouldn’t really be that much of a talking point. While Bohm does have his supporters, ultimately, the team feels his defense is such that he would be harming the team more than he would be helping it. Roster decisions are made by people who have preferences about how that roster is shaped and right now, Bohm does not fit that profile. They would rather give that playing time to more sure handed veterans that gobble up groundballs with regularity. Is that the correct move, especially on a team that has recently gone through some offensive lapses? That’s for the manager to decide.

The real issue is about the future not only of Bohm, but of any prospects that come after him. How can we trust that the team will not only develop them to the point that they will be ready, but that they will be supported once failure or inconsistency is experienced at the highest level? Surely the team has helped Bohm as much as they could while he was here, but from the outside looking in, it looks like he has entered a doghouse he will never escape so long as the manager is present. The defense was suspect to be kind, but he was still miles ahead of someone like Miller with the bat. No matter how one frames it, it feels like the case of a veteran getting the preferred nod from the manager as opposed to the young player.

The sad part is, this is not the first time this has happened to a top prospect of the Phillies. As we’ve far too recently, Scott Kingery was signed to a huge extension and promoted to the big club, only to fall flat on his face. Arguments could be made about whose fault it was that he failed (those swing changes to sell out for more power did not help), but saddling him with the expectations of the contract, then asking him to learn a new position in the major leagues without any repetitions there is a decision that was made by the front office and field manager combined. They were not putting him in the best position to succeed. By default, that is equivalent to setting him up to fail.

More recently than even Kingery, Adam Haseley was brought up in 2019 only to be basically forbidden from facing a left-handed pitcher in 2020. There are arguments to made here as well, since the field manager saw something he did not like when Haseley stepped up against southpaws, but it was also a 60 game spring where the needed developmental time against left-handers was simply not available if the team was trying to win. At certain points, though, Haseley simply didn’t play at all, entering the same doghouse that Bohm suddenly finds himself in.

Then we have Spencer Howard. Touted as the team’s top prospect both in 2020 and 2021, his role was yo-yo’ed around so much, he more than likely developed vertigo. It no doubt affected him and his performance, but all any major league player craves is a set role, a regular position, or at the very least, a plan for playing time. Howard was not lucky enough to receive any of that as the team always put him into the role they needed, not the role he would succeed at. He did not perform particularly well at any of the roles, struggles which prompted his being traded, but how is a young player supposed to perform when he doesn’t know what he’s going to be doing at any particular time?

It all goes back to the team’s almost amazing inability to bring homegrown talent to the big leagues and have them succeed. Bohm was supposed to be that case as his 2020 season made us all feel giddy about the possibilities his career may have, but he has fallen down, stumbled up a bit, then was kicked to the curb. How can we be sure that the team will support a young player when he struggles in the big leagues? There has to be some acceptance that someone coming up from the minors will go through struggles and that they will be given some rope to play through it. This most certainly isn’t the end of Bohm. He’s an important part of the team’s future. They’re also in the middle of a pennant race and need every win, every out, every hit they can get from the entire roster. The argument is there for his going to the minor leagues and it is a good argument. It just hurts to see this cycle coming up yet again. There has to be something that improves it, not just for Bohm, but for all the other players that will follow him.