Phillies

Charlie Manuel sees 40-homer potential in Phillies prospect Alec Bohm

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Charlie Manuel sees 40-homer potential in Phillies prospect Alec Bohm

CLEVELAND — Alec Bohm reflected on the season he’s had so far and laughed.

“I’ve gotten good at packing,” he said.

For a minor-league ballplayer, that’s a good thing. Keep packing those bags and moving up until you can finally put down some roots in the big leagues.

Bohm, the Phillies’ top pick in the 2018 draft, has played at three levels in the team’s system this season. He tore up pitching in the South Atlantic and Florida State Leagues and is now at Double A Reading.

Sunday brought another stop for the 22-year-old Nebraskan — Major League Baseball’s Futures Game. Bohm started at third base for the National League team.

“It’s a huge honor to be here with the best players in the minor leagues,” he said.

Bohm was not one of the best players in the minors last year. He did not hit a home run while batting .252 in 139 at-bats in the low minors. He missed significant time after getting hit by a pitch in the knee.

The Wichita State product is healthy now and showing why the Phillies spent the third overall pick in the 2018 draft on him. In 77 games at three minor-league stops this season, he is hitting .325 with 10 homers, 48 RBIs and a .929 OPS. He is hitting .259 (15 for 58) with three homers and 10 RBIs in his first 15 games at Double A, the level where the men start separating themselves from the boys.

“Last year, I started out slow then I wanted to hit four home runs with one swing and you can’t do that,” Bohm said. “Having the time off in the offseason allowed me to regroup. I’ve matured a little bit. Really the main thing I’ve done is try to keep everything simple. I was thinking a lot last year, trying to make changes where I didn’t need to make changes. This year, I’ve been keeping it simple and it’s worked for me.”

Bohm took batting practice before the Futures Game under the watchful eye of Charlie Manuel, the American League’s bench coach under manager Jim Thome. Manuel scouts and works with young hitters in the Phillies’ system. He saw Bohm in college and liked him then. He likes him more now.

“I saw him in college and I thought that he was going to need some work at third base,” Manuel said. “But the more that I got to know him and his work ethic, I don’t see why he can’t improve and stay there.”

Manuel loves hitters. Always has. He sees big potential in Bohm, a towering right-handed hitter who stands 6-5 and boasts excellent plate discipline.

“He has a chance to be a big-time hitter in the major leagues,” Manuel said. “What really impresses me the most is how he goes about his at-bats, his approach at the plate, and the way that he battles. He puts the ball in play with two strikes and things like that and he hits the ball all over the field. He’s a line drive hitter and as he matures, the power will be there.

“He’s always worked the count really well and been patient and looked for good pitches to hit. If he keeps doing that in pro ball, the fact that he doesn't strike out the way that a big guy does, he should definitely be OK.

“I think when it’s all said and done and his career balances out where it should be, I’m looking at a guy who is going to hit anywhere from .285 to .300 and hit anywhere from 25 to 30 to 40 home runs. It depends on how many he happens to catch that season.”

Bohm enjoyed working with Manuel last fall in the Florida Instructional League.

“Every time I see him we have a great talk about hitting,” Bohm said. “He’s forgotten more about hitting than a lot of people will ever know. He’s helped me a lot.”

At the end of a hitting session, Manuel loves to get young hitters together and crank up the pitching machine to 100 mph just to see how the guys compete and who can square up that kind of velocity. Bohm can do it.

“He stayed right on it,” Manuel said. “He could get to that 100 real nice and easy. How he did it and how far the ball was going was amazing, really.”

Bohm is a big part of the Phillies’ future and the team has a need at third base. Whether he can play big-league defense at the position remains a question mark. Some in the organization are convinced he can. Others are on the fence. He has gotten some playing time at first base this season to keep options open.

Bohm has worked hard on his defense. He believes he can stay at third base.

“It’s something that I know I can do and whether other people think so or not, I don’t really let that affect me,” Bohm said of playing third base in the majors. “I know I can do it.”

Bohm will turn 23 next month. At his current rate, he could be knocking on the door in Philadelphia sometime next season.

But Sunday was about enjoying the experience of playing with and against baseball’s top prospects in the MLB Futures Game. Manuel and Thome, two baseball lifers with deep ties to Cleveland and Philadelphia, were in the other dugout. Bohm chatted with Manuel during batting practice and he hoped to get some time with Thome later in the day.

“I’ve got a few questions for him,” Bohm said.

Like what?

“Teach me how to hit 600 and whatever home runs,” he said with a laugh.

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At the Yard podcast: Predicting where Top 12 MLB free agents will sign

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At the Yard podcast: Predicting where Top 12 MLB free agents will sign

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman predict where the top 12 MLB free agents will land in Monday's At the Yard podcast.

• Anthony Rendon

• Gerrit Cole

• Stephen Strasburg

• Zack Wheeler

• Madison Bumgarner

• Josh Donaldson

• Mike Moustakas

• Rick Porcello

• Cole Hamels

• Hyun-Jin Ryu

• Nick Castellanos

• Didi Gregorius

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Matt Klentak's 'Time to win' comment makes this a crucial offseason for Phillies and it begins this week

Matt Klentak's 'Time to win' comment makes this a crucial offseason for Phillies and it begins this week

Throw a log on the hot stove.

Major League Baseball general managers will assemble in Phoenix for their annual meetings on Monday. The event, which ends Thursday, serves as the de facto starting point of the offseason and this will be a busy one, locally and industry wide.

The free-agent market is led by three stars of the recently completed World Series — starting pitching studs Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg and hard-hitting third baseman Anthony Rendon. Strasburg and Rendon were part of the World Series champion Washington Nationals club and Cole starred for the American League champion Houston Astros. All three players are represented by super-agent Scott Boras, who a year ago used the general managers meetings as a pulpit to announce that “Harper’s Bazaar” had opened for business. Three and a half months later, Bryce Harper signed a mammoth, 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies.

Harper led the Phillies in OPS (.882), homers (35) and RBIs (114) in his first season with the club, but the Phils, who led the NL East at the end of May, faded in June and again in September to finish in fourth place in the National League East, 12 games behind the second-place (and wild card) Nationals and 16 behind the division-winning Atlanta Braves.

The Phillies have not had a winning season (they finished .500 in 2019) or made the playoffs since 2011 and impatience is raw from the fan base to the ownership level. Managing partner John Middleton ordered the ouster of manager Gabe Kapler, proven winner Joe Girardi is now at the helm and normally guarded general manager Matt Klentak is on record as saying, “No questions asked, it is time to win right now.” That statement makes this a crucial offseason for Klentak and the Phillies because this team must fill some serious holes if it is going to win right now.

The most glaring hole — or holes — reside in the starting rotation where the Phillies currently have just one dependable starting pitcher on their roster. After Aaron Nola, the Phils have reason to believe that a healthy Jake Arrieta (he had elbow surgery in September) and an inconsistent but promising Zach Eflin can contribute in 2020, but neither are a sure-thing and even if they make an impact, the Phils will need a lot more starting pitching than that, from the top of the rotation to the back end.

You can bet the Phils will be in on all the top arms on the free-agent market. Boras, who during Harper’s Bazaar built a chemistry with Middleton, will make sure of that. 

The Phillies will at least start the offseason in the sweepstakes for Cole and Strasburg and see where it takes them. Cole seems to have his eye on the West Coast and Strasburg could end up back in Washington, but the deep-pocketed Phils cannot be ruled out, especially this early in the offseason. The Phils will be in on other top starters such as Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler. Signing any one of these four would require the Phillies to forfeit their second pick in the 2020 draft. The Phils, with a new scouting director (Brian Barber) and a need to add talent to their prospect pipeline, are not keen on losing high-round selections, but their need for starting pitching is so acute and their thirst to win so desperate that it would not be surprising to see them sacrifice a pick for an impact arm.

Given the lack of depth in the rotation, the Phillies will cast their net in the lower end of the free-agent pool, as well. Cole Hamels has long spoken of a desire to finish his career in Philadelphia. Rick Porcello and others could also boost the back end of the rotation.

As nice as Rendon’s bat would look at third base — where there is a need — the Phils probably have to allot the bulk of their financial resources on starting pitching, not to mention locking up catcher J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension. The Phils have been linked to third baseman Mike Moustakas, yet another Boras guy, the last two winters and this might be the time to try to grab him on a one- or two-year deal. He won’t cost nearly as much as Rendon and shouldn’t cost as much as free-agent Josh Donaldson, who is also expected to cost a draft pick after being extended a qualifying offer.

With Andrew McCutchen set in left field and Harper in right field, the Phils could pursue a short-term fit like Brett Gardner in center field, but they also could look to re-sign corner man Corey Dickerson, a good lefty stick, and try to get enough out of a McCutchen-Adam Haseley combination in center field. 

As for Odubel Herrera, it’s too early to tell if he will ever suit up for the Phillies again. The guess here is that he will not, but the Phillies still have several months to make that call. Only the need for a roster spot (the team currently has five openings) or the arrival of spring training will create urgency to make a decision on Herrera, if it already has not privately been made.

It’s kind of fitting that the GM meetings are being held in the Phoenix area. That is Scott Kingery’s hometown and he sits in the middle of this Phillies offseason. Depending on how the team maneuvers its way through the winter, Kingery could open the 2020 season at third base, shortstop, second base or center field. He could play third if the team does not bring in someone from the outside, shortstop if Cesar Hernandez moves on and Jean Segura moves to second base, as has been discussed internally, or second base if the team wants to play him at his best position. He also improved greatly in center field last season and could fill that spot, depending how this offseason shakes out.

There are many possibilities for this team that says it's time to win now.

Throw a log on the fire. The hot stove is warming. Baseball’s offseason gets chugging this week.

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