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: Phillies takeaways from the GM Meetings

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At the Yard podcast: Phillies takeaways from the GM Meetings

Jim Salisbury relays the juiciest info — Phillies and leaguewide — from MLB's GM Meetings in Arizona. Check out the latest At the Yard podcast.

• Scott Boras immediately makes his presence felt

• Biggest takeaways from the GM Meetings

• Phillies interested in Mike Moustakas

• Surveying the third base landscape

• Gerrit Cole, Cole Hamels and more

• Odubel Herrera update

• Gabe Kapler's rocky road to acceptance in San Francisco

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Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

What about Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ forgotten man?

What about Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ forgotten man?

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ forgotten man, is working out in Miami as he seeks to restart his career after an 85-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

But can the Phillies, given all that has happened, actually ever put him back on the field again?

“I don't know the answer to that. I really don't,” general manager Matt Klentak said at this week’s annual general managers meetings. “I think the best thing I could say there is, because the landscape has changed, he's going to have to earn whatever he gets. He doesn't walk back in as the opening day center fielder. 

“Right now, he’s on the 40-man roster and under contract so if camp started tomorrow, he would be there. What happens between now and February? I don’t know.”

Herrera, who turns 28 next month, was the Phillies’ starting center fielder for four-plus seasons before his suspension for an incident in May, and he has two years and more than $20 million remaining on his contract. When Major League Baseball and the Players Association forged its joint policy on domestic violence, both sides agreed that a player violating the policy could not have his contract voided. To move on from Herrera, the Phillies would have to eat the remainder of his salary and prove that they were releasing him for purely baseball reasons.

If you listen closely, you can almost hear Klentak building that case.

“I think the most important thing to recognize with Odubel is the situation that he left in the spring when he was suspended and the situation he's coming back to are not the same,” Klentak said. “Because Scott Kingery went out there and played a well-above-average defensive center field for us for spurts last year. Adam Haseley came up from the minor leagues and did a really good job and we still have Roman Quinn, who when healthy is as dynamic as any player in the league. So, whereas Odubel had been the everyday center fielder for a handful of seasons, now all of a sudden there's more of a competition there so the landscape has changed.”

Herrera was an All-Star in 2016 but his performance has declined in subsequent seasons. Dating to August 2018, he has hit just .204 over his last 84 games.

The Phillies still have several months before they have to make a decision on Herrera and with five openings on the 40-man roster, they are not in immediate need of space. It is still possible that Herrera could be traded (with the Phillies eating the bulk of his salary and getting little in return), but other teams will face the same public scrutiny about taking on the player. The Phillies could also option Herrera to Triple A, but that would require keeping him on the 40-man roster and in the organization.

Klentak was careful to point out that Herrera “is an option for us.” But given the gravity of the situation and the time that has passed, one has to wonder if he really is. Time will tell.

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