AnalysisNL East

3 important young players for the Phillies

Heading into the upcoming MLB season, the Phillies have one of the most talented rosters in the National League.

Recently, J.T. Realmuto and Trea Turner were named the best players at their positions by MLB Network. As for the rest of the roster, Bryce Harper ranked third among right fielders, Kyle Schwarber third among left fielders, Rhys Hoskins tenth among first basemen, and Zack Wheeler eighth among starting pitchers.

Outside of those six guys, Philadelphia’s roster also includes Aaron Nola, who has pitched the most innings in the majors since the start of 2018, a potential bounce-back candidate in Nick Castellanos, and a number of hard-throwing relievers such as Seranthony Domínquez and José Alvarado.

Talent doesn’t always result in wins. As the old saying goes: “Games aren’t won on paper.” It is likely the Phillies compete within the N.L. East and have a chance to win their first division title since 2011. That will be no easy task, though. The Braves and Mets are each coming off 101-win seasons and continued to upgrade their rosters this winter. Clinching one of the three Wild Card spots in the N.L. won’t be easy, either. There are a number of other teams that will be competing for those spots, too.

Given that the N.L. looks to be rather competitive this year, there are three young players the Phillies will likely need to step up if the team is going to separate itself from the rest of the league, especially because all three could find themselves as key players for the Phillies in 2023.

Let’s break down each player.

Brandon Marsh

At last year’s trade deadline, the Phillies acquired Brandon Marsh from the Los Angeles Angels for top-catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe. The instant reaction to the trade from most people was confusion. But after some time to think, people realized the move made sense for both clubs.

The Angels had some outfield depth in the majors, making Marsh, who was once one of L.A.’s top prospects, expendable. The Phillies, on the other hand, didn’t have a long-term answer in center field. Moving O’Hoppe made sense since the club has J.T. Realmuto locked up for the next few seasons. All in all, the Angels received a player that could help them now, and in the future, behind the plate, while the Phillies found their future center fielder.

Player Breakdown:

Marsh debuted with the Angels in 2021 and saw all of his defensive innings (568.0) in center field. In those innings, he was worth -3 DRS and 3 OAA. At the plate, he made 260 appearances and posted an 83 OPS+.

Last year was his first full stint in the majors. It was filled with what most people expect from a young player in today’s game - highs and lows. Marsh split time between left and center field while in L.A. However, after the trade to Philadelphia, he strictly played center. He graded out much better in left (6 DRS, 8 OAA in 593.2 innings) than in center (-1 DRS, -1 OAA in 431.2 innings). Offensively, Marsh was much better at the plate as a member of the Phillies. As an Angel, he slashed .226/.284/.353 in 323 plate appearances, with an 80 OPS+. As a Phillie, Marsh hit .288/.319/.455 in 138 plate appearances, which was good for a 116 OPS+.

Even though it was a much smaller sample size in Philly, there is some promise for Marsh’s future at the plate. Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long helped the left-handed hitting center fielder make some adjustments to his batting stance:

While he could be a better hitter in total this season, Marsh will have to work on his walk and strikeout numbers. He had good walk rates in the minors, but that has not translated to the big leagues, yet. Marsh has a career 6.7 BB% in 721 major league plate appearances. As for his strikeout totals, he has struck out in more than one-third of his appearances at the plate in the majors (34.5%). It is important to note however, that last season Marsh’s strikeout percentage with the Phillies (29.7%) was lower than it was with the Angels (36.2%). Given the difference in sample sizes, that could be an outlier. Or, it could be a result of his new batting stance. Only time will tell.

Another area Marsh has to improve at the dish is his numbers against left-handed pitching. After the Phillies traded Matt Vierling, who split time in center field with Marsh in 2022, this offseason, the now 25-year-old will be team’s the full-time center fielder. This means he will be facing both right-handed and left-handed pitchers. During his short big league career, Marsh is hitting .259/.320/.413 against righties in 593 plate appearances. In 186 trips to the plate against lefties, he’s hitting .220/.253/.266. Obviously, the left-handed hitting Marsh has been a liability against same-handed pitching to this point. However, he did make it a point of emphasis to work on his ability to hit lefties this offseason.

Marsh is also one of the fastest players in baseball right now. His 29.1 ft/s sprint speed in 2021 fell into the 95th percentile. Last year, his 28.9 ft/s sprint speed was in the 89th percentile.

2023 Outlook:

The biggest contribution Marsh can make to the team this year is with his glove. He will be sandwiched between two below-league-average fielders (Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos) in center for most of the season. Defensive metrics don’t grade Marsh as a great defender in center field, so he will have to work on it.

When it comes to his upgrading his offense, Marsh will have to start hitting against left-handed pitching. Changes to his batting stance helped increase his productivity in the final months of last season. If Marsh can couple that with better numbers against lefties, he should be able to provide above-league-average numbers as a hitter.

Overall, there isn’t much pressure for Marsh to become one of the league’s best-hitting center fielders. He will most likely find himself hitting in the ninth spot of the batting order for most of the season. Improving his numbers with both his glove and bat could make Marsh a huge part of the Phillies’ potential 2023 success.

Bryson Stott

Bryson Stott was selected by the Phillies in the first round of the 2019 draft out of UNLV. After a quick rise through the minors, Stott entered spring camp last year in a competition with Didi Gregorius for the team’s starting shortstop job. After making the Opening Day roster, Stott struggled. He was seemingly benched quickly thereafter and was eventually demoted to Triple-A. Stott’s demotion didn’t last long, though. After a pair of injuries to the team’s middle infielders in early May and June, Stott was recalled to the majors and began to play every day. He would go on to earn the everyday shortstop job by mid-summer, and the club signaled their confidence in the youngster by releasing Didi Gregorius.

Player Breakdown:

The scouting report on Stott as a prospect was that while he didn’t boast any one tool that stood out among the rest, he didn’t have a glaring weakness to his game. He did everything well on a baseball field. While appearing in 127 games a year ago, that scouting report looked to be spot on.

As previously mentioned, Stott had his struggles in 2022. However, he did show signs of being able to hit big-league pitching with both contact and power. In 466 plate appearances last season, Stott hit .234/.295/.358 with an 84 OPS+. The 24-year-old also had 19 doubles, 2 triples, and 10 home runs. Even though his overall production was below league average, Stott did post above-league-average numbers at times. While the middle infielder posted an OPS+ below 100 in April (-2), May (-4), and July (89), he posted an OPS+ of 100 or better in June (101), August (116), and September/October (103).

Stott was clearly able to adjust to big-league pitching over the course of 2022, which is always a great sign for a young player. After ups and downs during the first four months of the 2022 campaign, Stott finished the year strong. In his final 207 plate appearances of the regular season, he hit .279/.330/.405.

Also at the plate, Stott was above league average in strikeout rate (19.1%, 62nd percentile), Chase Rate, or O-Swing% (28.2%, 59th percentile), and Whiff% (17.2%, 89th percentile). The young shortstop’s walk rate was slightly below league average (7.7%, 45th percentile), though. Stott paired his ability to make contact and lay off pitches outside of the zone with the skillset to spray the ball all over the diamond. On balls he put into play, the left-handed hitter pulled the ball 32.6% of the time while hitting it up the middle (35.6%) and to the opposite field (31.8%) almost equally.

In the field, Stott mostly played shortstop (658.1 innings) and second base (372.0 innings). Defensive metrics graded him better at second (1 DRS, 3 OAA) than at short (-5 DRS, 0 OAA). His average arm strengths were similar in both positions. He averaged 86.1 MPH on throws while playing second and 85.1 MPH from short. Overall, Stott’s OAA fell into the 74th percentile, while his average arm strength was in the 52nd percentile in 2022.

As a base runner, Stott was valuable to the Phillies. His BsR (4.7) was second on the team. He also stole 12 bases. The young shortstop’s 29.1 ft/s sprint speed was in the 91st percentile.

2023 Outlook:

In his first full major league season, Bryson Stott showed that he could play at the big league level. He was able to flash contact and power in the batter’s box, provided solid defense up the middle, and showed off his speed on the base paths. Not only did he showcase his capabilities to do everything well on a baseball diamond, but he also displayed his willingness to make adjustments during the season.

That being said, Stott could turn into one of the Phillies’ better overall players in 2023. The offseason addition of Trea Turner will move Stott to second base full-time. He showed the ability to play above-average defense there last year. Couple that with a shortstop’s arm, and Stott should be a plus with his glove moving forward.

At the plate, Stott will likely see most of his appearances in the bottom third of the batting order. Becoming a more consistent hitter will be a big part of his growth in 2023. If he can do that, Stott could help make an already deep lineup even more dangerous.

Unlike spring training a year ago, the 24-year-old is entering camp this spring knowing he will be on Philadelphia’s Opening Day roster. Being a young player on a team full of veterans should only benefit him. Stott doesn’t have to carry the load. Those responsibilities fall on players like Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, and Bryce Harper - once he returns. Instead, he has to continue his development as a big leaguer. In doing so, Stott could provide plenty of value as a good defensive second baseman who hits at the bottom of the order.

Even though he isn’t entering the year as one of the team’s best players, if everything clicks for the club’s new young second baseman, Bryson Stott could be a player who contributes in all areas of the game for the Phillies.

Alec Bohm

The Phillies selected Alec Bohm out of Wichita State University with the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He made his big league debut during the shortened 2020 season. Appearing in 44 games that year, Bohm slashed .338/.400/.481 with a 137 OPS+ and finished second in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting behind Devin Williams. After an underwhelming sophomore season in 2021, Bohm made improvements in 2022 and was a much better hitter. Out of the three players detailed in this article, he might be the most likely to have a “break out” campaign in 2023.

Player Breakdown:

Bohm’s potential at the plate is very high. He is already a hitter that makes contact at a very high rate. He has a body frame that could help grow his power numbers as he matures and enters his late 20s. If that happens, the now 26-year-old could become a special hitter.

Overall, Bohm slashed .280/.315/.398 with 24 doubles and 13 home runs in 631 plate appearances in 2022. Those numbers resulted in a 100 OPS+. Even being a league-average hitter was a vast improvement when compared to 2021. In 417 plate appearances two years ago, Bohm posted a 75 OPS+ and looked clueless at the plate at times.

In 2021, Bohm saw an increase in strikeout totals from the previous season. His ability to hit fastballs completely vanished, too. He was much better in regard to strikeouts and hitting fastballs in 2022, which was a big reason for his increased productivity. Bohm had 214 more plate appearances in 2022 (631) than in 2021 (417), and he struck out one less time (111 strikeouts in 2021 vs. 110 in 2022). His batting average against fastballs in 2021 was .190. Last season, he hit .290 against that same type of pitch.

One negative about Bohm’s 2022 numbers was his decrease in walk totals. That is likely a result of his willingness to swing at more pitches outside of the strike zone. In fact, Bohm’s walk totals have decreased each year during his short big league career, and his Chase Rate has increased each year:

YearChase RateWalk Rate

Although Bohm didn’t post outrageous walk rates in the minors, he did show that he could draw them. If he wants to grow as a big-league hitter, he will surely have to get back to laying off pitches outside of the zone. Doing so would likely lead to more walks, making him a better hitter overall.

Another area Bohm could look to upgrade at the plate moving forward is his power. His .398 slugging percentage last season was not that great, especially for a guy who plays the hot corner. However, his xSLG of .436 did fall into the 73rd percentile. Bohm hit for power in the minor leagues and in his first set of big league at-bats, so the potential is there. In order to unlock said potential, Bohm is going to have to lift, and pull, the ball more.

He improved slightly in both of those areas in 2022 when compared to 2021. The third baseman’s pull percentage in 2021 was 26.0%. It was 30.2% last season. In terms of lift, or launch angle, Bohm did get under the ball more. His average launch angle two seasons ago was 5.6 degrees. Last season it was 10.4 degrees. Bohm has shown the ability to hit the ball hard, as his average exit velocity in 2022 of 90.2 MPH was in the 73rd percentile. Paired with strong exit velocities, starting to lift the ball more should lead to an increase in Bohm’s overall power numbers.

There is plenty of room for Bohm to grow at the plate, and he does have the potential to do so. The same cannot be said about his glove, though. Even though Bohm showed defensive improvements as 2022 progressed, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of potential in that part of his game.

Bohm was one of the league’s worst defenders last year. In 1,146.2 defensive innings at third base, he finished with -17 DRS and -9 OAA. His average arm strength of 81.9 MPH fell into the 28th percentile. To reiterate, he did grow as a defender over the course of 2022, but the best-case scenario for Bohm might be as a slightly below-league-average fielder at third. If he can become a better hitter, though, the defense would certainly be more tolerable.

Alec Bohm showed signs of growth in the field and in the batter’s box a year ago. He, and the Phillies, hope that continues this year.

2023 Outlook:

Heading into 2023, Alec Bohm is slated to be the Phillies’ everyday third baseman. Since his glove work isn’t all that great, and Bryce Harper is set to miss most of the first half of the year, Bohm could also see some time as the team’s designated hitter.

No matter where he is slated to play, Bohm is probably going to fall into the bottom half of the Phillies lineup. Most of his at-bats are likely going to come from the fifth, sixth, or seventh spot in the batting order depending on who else starts the game.

At the plate, it feels like 2023 could be the year the former first-round pick elevates his game. Increasing both his walk rates and power numbers would go a long way to ensure his future as a mainstay in the Phillies lineup. As someone who isn’t fond of bold predictions, or “takes”, if Alec Bohm unleashes his full potential at the dish this season, 25 home runs with a 10% walk rate could be on the horizon.

Defensively, there really isn’t anywhere to go but up.

If he makes some strides at the hot corner with his glove, and makes even larger ones in the batter’s box, Alec Bohm might become one of the Phillies’ most productive players.

Final Thoughts

As we close in on the month of March, the start of the Major League Baseball season is almost here. The Phillies front office made improvements to the club’s roster this winter to help them reach the postseason again. Winning the division will be hard, and securing a Wild Card spot won’t be a cakewalk, either.

If the Phillies want to reach the playoffs and win their first N.L. East title since 2011, there are three young guys set to be everyday players this season that could push them over the top.

Brandon Marsh could become a valuable player if he enhances his glove work in center field and hits better against left-handed pitching. Bryson Stott has all the tools to become one of the Phillies’ best overall players. Alec Bohm could become a serious middle-of-the-order bat if he unlocks what he is capable of at the plate.

The veterans on the Phillies roster are going to have to carry most of the load in order for the team to reach their goal of winning the World Series in 2023. But, if the team wants an even better chance of hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy above their heads, their young players will also have to step up.

Featured Photo: Twitter / @Phillies

Bailey Digh

I've been writing for Diamond Digest since July 2022. I'm also currently a contributor for Phillies Nation. You can find me on X @bailey_digh.

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