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


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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Phillies’ big signing Zack Wheeler to make his spring debut Saturday

Phillies’ big signing Zack Wheeler to make his spring debut Saturday

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Zack Wheeler will make his spring debut for the Phillies on Saturday afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Wheeler is expected to go two innings or 35 pitches.

The right-hander signed a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies in December.

“He’s ready to go and I’m anxious to watch him pitch,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’ve never sat this close to him before.”

Wheeler is the last of the Phillies’ starters to debut this spring. Nick Pivetta and Aaron Nola have already made two starts.

“It’s just the way we just set up his program,” Girardi said of Wheeler’s schedule. “He threw batting practice and stuff, simulated stuff. It’s just where he’s at.”

Girardi has not announced his opening day starter, but Nola, who pitched Friday, is presumed to be the guy. Wheeler appears to slot in second followed by Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin, though this is all subject to change.

The fifth starter’s spot is up for grabs between Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Ranger Suarez.

Suarez gets the start in Sunday’s Grapefruit League game against Baltimore in Clearwater. Arrieta and Seranthony Dominguez will get work in an intrasquad game at the minor-league complex.

Eflin is slated to pitch Monday night against Atlanta.

Nola pitched two-plus innings and threw 45 pitches in a 6-5 win over the Braves on Friday. He gave up six hits and two runs. He walked none and struck out six.

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Phillies leadoff man Andrew McCutchen out for opening day

Phillies leadoff man Andrew McCutchen out for opening day

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The knee injury that cost Andrew McCutchen four months last season will cost him more time this season.

McCutchen, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee on June 14, will open the season on the injured list, Phillies manager Joe Girardi announced on Friday afternoon.

Girardi's announcement came less than two weeks after McCutchen said it was his "plan" to be ready for opening day.

According to Girardi, McCutchen did not experience a setback and the club hopes to have him back sometime in April.

"The tests continue to improve," Girardi said. "He has made improvements as we've gone along. He continues to get better.

"But as we start to put it together, there's some things, some hurdles that he still has to clear, like cutting. We've seen him out there taking fly balls, we've seen him taking batting practice. But we haven't seen him run full speed.

"Opening day is awful early. It's March 26. I think that had he been ready for opening day it would have been pretty quick. He would have been on the short end of the rehab scale. But we don't expect it to be a real long time. Our thought process is we will get him sometime in April. If it was a normal year, the season used to start April 4th or 5th. But with a high-end athlete like him, he's just not quite ready to go."

McCutchen had already left the ballpark when Girardi made the announcement so he was not available for comment.

The news on McCutchen was not a complete surprise. Less than a month before opening day, he had yet to play in an exhibition game and had shown a limp in supervised outfield drills.

McCutchen's situation creates some camp competition as the Phillies look to fill his spot in left field. It's possible that Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn could both be in the opening day outfield, either in left field or center field. It's also possible that Jay Bruce could play some left field, though he's had elbow issues that impact his throwing. The Phils have two other outfielders, Nick Williams and Kyle Garlick, on the 40-man roster, and there are a host of non-roster players in camp who can play the outfield, including Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin, Mikie Mahtook, Logan Forsythe, Nick Martini and Neil Walker.

The Phils will also have to fill McCutchen's leadoff spot. Quinn would seem to be a good bet there. Losing McCutchen from the leadoff spot was a huge blow to the Phils last season. He had a .378 on-base percentage, second-best in the majors among leadoff men, when he went down on June 3. Phillies leadoff men had a paltry .295 on-base percentage the rest of the season and that ranked 29th in baseball over that span.

McCutchen, 33, is signed through 2021 as part of a three-year, $50 million contract signed before the 2019 season. 

With McCutchen out, the Phillies will have a different opening day left fielder for the 10th time in as many years.

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