CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Alec Bohm had quite the character arc in 2022. He was a trade candidate at this time last year, and even through the end of spring training didn't have a guaranteed everyday spot in the lineup.
He didn't play on opening day with Bryson Stott getting the start at third base against a right-handed pitcher in Frankie Montas. It was unclear whether the Phillies could realistically carry both Bohm and Stott on a roster that also included Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius. One of the young former first-round picks was going to have to sit more than an organization would like.
Bohm played the next day and went 2 for 2. His batting average wouldn't dip below .300 for another 37 games through May 20.
Everyone remembers Bohm's second start last season. It was a Monday night at home against the Mets and he committed three errors in the first three innings. He was caught on camera saying, 'I f---ing hate this place' when the boos came down after the third.
Then the Phillies stormed back for five runs in the bottom of the eighth, a rally that began with a Bohm walk. He totally diffused the situation afterward by admitting he said it and that he didn't mean it. It was a negative situation that he turned into a positive situation in the span of three hours. It actually endeared him to a large portion of the fanbase. "I f---ing hate this place" turned into a lesser form of Jason Kelce's famous, "Nobody likes us, we don't care."
Every year is differnet, but Bohm appeared to solidify himself as a major-leaguer last season. The difference in his confidence and the way he carries himself around the ballpark is night and day. He hit .280 in 631 plate appearances and had a strong showing in the World Series, leading the Phillies in hits and extra-base hits.
Offensively, however, there is huge room for improvement. Despite the .280 batting average, Bohm had a .315 on-base percentage and .398 slugging percentage. Both were just three points above the MLB average and were certainly lower than you'd want from a corner infielder and former No. 3 overall pick.
But he's not a finished product. This will be Bohm's age-26 season, and he showed up in camp noticeably bulked up after gaining between 5 and 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason.
Quite frankly, he's the most jacked guy on the Phillies' active roster now. This could be big in terms of power development.
Monday in Bradenton against the Pirates, Bohm destroyed a ball to left-center for a two-run home run in his first at-bat. The crack of the bat sounded like a firework and everyone in the park knew immediately it was gone.
In his second at-bat, Bohm did what comes much more naturally for him: hit the ball the opposite way for a single.
"He's starting to get the bat head out and he's stronger than he was last year," manager Rob Thomson said. "He put on some good weight in the offseason. We don't want him to lose (his natural approach) but we want him to be able to pull the ball when he needs to pull the ball."
Bohm pulled the ball in just 18.7 percent of his plate appearances last season. The league average was 27.1 percent.
"That is me, I don't want to take that part of my game away," he said Monday. "That's where I'm at. I'm not trying to just pull the ball and hit homers."
Bohm says he didn't change his offseason approach specifically to gain muscle, it's just a byproduct of being 6-foot-5 and growing into his body. The Phillies' strength and conditioning staff did suggest after last season that he gain the good kind of weight and the message was received.
"I just ate clean, worked out," Bohm said. "I didn't do anything different in the weight room, I'm just getting older. I'm a kid that's growing up. My body is ready to carry more weight. I go into every offseason like, 'Oh, I'm gonna get big this offseason,' and then it doesn't happen. This offseason, I did the same thing, I showed up and everybody thought I looked bigger."
Bohm is in a good spot with the Phillies. There is so much star power around him, so many high-priced veterans that he doesn't have to deal with the pressure of being the most important hitter in the lineup. It's not a situation where the Phils' offense will go as he goes. But he's also an important connector between the top and bottom of the lineup. He figures to hit somewhere around sixth. It could be higher, but as they await Bryce Harper's return, the Phillies will likely need a second left-handed bat beyond Schwarber to better split up lefties and righties. Maybe that's Darick Hall in the cleanup spot. Maybe it's Brandon Marsh or Stott hitting higher in the order.
There were 11 college hitters selected in the first round the year the Phillies drafted Bohm out of Wichita State. He's gotten more at-bats than any of them and is on one of the most positive trajectories of the group, with Nico Hoerner and Jonathan India the only two to produce similarly at the plate to this point.
If Bohm could get from, say, 13 homers to 20, from 24 doubles to the low/mid-30s, his offensive ceiling would rise as he enters his prime years.
"Just kind of that next step I guess," he said. "Another season, more experience. If I hit the ball, (the added muscle) will help. I know that sounds stupid but I'm trying to keep it simple."