Sunday afternoon in Dunedin brought warm weather, lots of home runs by the Phillies and more questions surrounding their former top draft pick than ever before. Heading into the offseason, getting Alec Bohm right both at the plate and in the field seemed like a priority for the organization. There were, of course, the hires of Kevin Long and Bobby Dickerson as hitting and fielding coaches, respectively, but there were other signs as well. Prior to the CBA being agreed to, there was no indication from anyone on the team that going over the luxury tax threshold was something the team was interested in, making it imperative that they get a player as talented as Bohm to go in the right direction to help with the bottom line. After all, teams love highly productive players that are making very little money.
So when the lockout dragged and dragged, it made the situation with Bohm look worse and worse since major league coaches weren’t allowed to have contact with the players on the team. The changes that needed to be made weren’t going to have enough time to take effect if there was a shortened spring training for the team to implement them. If Bohm got off a poor start during spring, his grip on the third base job would be tenuous at best.
Now, with Bryson Stott getting the start at third base over the weekend, coupled with the struggles Bohm has had with the bat these few spring games, the competition for the hot corner is now suddenly wide open and Bohm is not at the top of the depth chart. One would have to wonder if he is even second on the list.
- After Sunday’s game, Bohm is now 2 for 16 on the spring, while Stott is 5 for 12 with a home run and three RBI.
- Johan Camargo, the assumed backup at third, is 5 for 15 with two RBI and two doubles. He’s also able to play all around the field, both on the dirt and in the grass.
- Joe Girardi is strongly considering the possibility of Stott at third. When asked about Stott at third, Girardi was candid. “It’s something we’re going to look at.”
- If Stott is going to head north with the team, he’s going to play: “You’re not going to take a guy like a Stott if he’s not going to play a lot. That makes no sense.”
There are a lot of factors here at play, but it’s beginning to feel like Alec Bohm is not going to be in Philadelphia when the Athletics come to town. Why is that?
Signing Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber were great for the team since it gave them two offensive pieces that can deepen lineup and make them better. The problem for Bohm is that they take up the only other two places on the roster the team could have hid him if he needed to be moved off of third base. If one of the two isn’t in left field on any given day, he’ll be the DH for the team. If they’re both in the field, Bryce Harper will be DHing that day, which means that Bohm would be out of luck. We’ve always kind of guessed that his defense would ultimately probably force him off of the hot corner, but that seemed so far away. He only needs to be average there as it is, but now with his other two probably destinations - left field and designated hitter - already full for the immediate future, either he improves at third base or he’s not with the team.
Another reason he might be headed to Lehigh Valley is that Stott is simply outplaying him and the team needs to win right now. Had the Mets and Braves not gone out and improved their teams in such an impressive manner, the Phillies might have let Bohm take a few lumps early to try and get himself back on track. Letting him a month to get himself straightened out, seeing major league pitching and getting major league coaching would be fine since the Phillies wouldn’t be as far behind the other two teams talent-wise and could use the rest of the acquisitions to help carry Bohm and his struggles. Now that we know that the Mets and Braves have improved so much, Philadelphia is going to need every win it can get to keep pace not only with them, but with all the other teams in the National League trying to get into the playoffs. Expanded playoffs coupled with a much larger payroll have slimmed to ability to make excuses for missing out on October baseball, meaning the pressure to win, and win immediately, have gone up quite a bit. The team simply can no longer afford for Bohm to struggle in the majors and if Stott is showing that he is the better option for the team to win right away, he is the one that is going to play.
Now, I’m not of the opinion yet that we are looking at Scott Kingery situation. With Kingery, the team rushed him due to a huge contract that is painful in hindsight, put him in a position where he was forced to learn a new place on the diamond on the fly, then consistently changed the message to him to the point where mentally, it was just gone. Bohm seems to have gotten in his own head and the team was looking to help him get right again with the hiring of several solid coaches, basically the opposite of Kingery. But getting him right should be a priority for this organization this year, wherever it has to be done.
There is also a sentiment that sending Bohm to the minors is a failure of development yet again. Should Bohm start the season in Lehigh Valley, you’ll see a lot of “bust”, “disappointment” and “flame out” being thrown around, but it would be prudent to not rush to judgement. As stated before, the team needs to win this season. They cannot allow a player like Bohm to develop on the fly. Prior to the season, we all kind of knew that the plan would be probably Didi Gregorius and some young player on the left side of the infield, the other young player headed to the minors. Does it really matter if that young player going down is Bohm or Stott? After all, next season, Gregorius will be gone and Bohm and Stott will be up there anyway. At least if Stott comes up and plays well at both third and short, the team will have the more important position settled headed into the future. Bohm will not be wasted sitting on the bench, but will instead be getting daily reps and instruction in the minors, away from the glare of the major league light.
It will be important for them to get Bohm right, so if that has to be in the minors to start the season, so be it. Just make sure that he is getting proper coaching and proper instruction so that he doesn’t turn into about offensive bust as a draft choice. That’s the last thing this team needs.