AnalysisNL East

What To Make Of Alec Bohm

With the third overall pick of the 2018 draft, the Philadelphia Phillies selected third baseman Alec Bohm out of Wichita State University. During his three-year collegiate career, Bohm raked, slashing .317/.393/.548 with 33 home runs. His final year at Wichita State was his best — he posted a 1.061 OPS with 14 home runs in 266 plate appearances. It was clear the Phillies drafted Bohm for his bat.

The Nebraska-born third baseman didn’t impress in his limited professional plate appearances in 2018 — he hit just .252/.335/.324. His first full professional season was a different story, though. Across three minor-league levels in 2019, Bohm batted .305/.378/.518 with 30 doubles, four triples, and 21 home runs. He continued that success in the Arizona Fall League where he posted a .925 OPS in 78 trips to the plate. Bohm’s 2019 campaign shot him up prospect rankings lists and many were excited to see what he would do in 2020. But Minor League Baseball didn’t play games that year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bohm did impress in 2020, though. He made his big-league debut that year, appearing in 44 games for the Phillies. He hit .338/.400/.481 with a 138 wRC+ in 180 plate appearances. Bohm’s success in 2020 led to him finishing second in National League Rookie of the Year voting behind Devin Williams of the Milwaukee Brewers.

There was a lot of hype surrounding Bohm entering 2021. And it was deserved. But since then, he hasn’t lived up to what many thought he’d become, resulting in questions about what to make of the former third-overall pick moving forward.

Year by Year

Bohm’s 2021 campaign was a massive struggle. He appeared in 115 games in the majors, posting a .247/.305/.342 slash line in his age-24 season. His 76 wRC+ indicated a well-below-average offensive output. Bohm struck out more than a quarter of the time (26.6%) and his walk rate (7.4%) dropped off a bit when compared to 2020 (8.9%). His defense, which he has never been praised for, was not good either. Bohm’s 2021 struggles resulted in a late August demotion to the minors.

The last two years have been better for Bohm. However, they aren’t the numbers some hoped he’d produce. His 98 wRC+ in 2022 was an improvement, but that’s still just right around league-average production. Last year was a bit better, too. He put together his first 20-homer campaign in the majors and posted a 105 wRC+. Over the last two seasons, Bohm combined for a 102 wRC+ in 1,242 plate appearances.

Time FrameSlash LinewRC+Strikeout RateWalk Rate
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

League-average offensive production is nice. A player who can contribute like that certainly has a place on a major league team. But when paired with Bohm’s poor defense, it’s not as exciting. Per FanGraphs, Bohm has accumulated -46 defensive runs saved and -11 outs above average in 2,967 career innings at third base. Those who watch the Phillies regularly can tell Bohm’s defense has gotten better over the last two years. He’s able to make the plays he’s supposed to. But his overall defense is still subpar.

Now, Bohm has done some things well during his career. Cutting down on his strikeout rate each of the last two years has been a nice development. That’s not to say he shouldn’t sacrifice upping his strikeouts to maybe add more power to his game, but more on that later. Bohm has also come up big with runners on base in the majors, especially last year.

Bohm’s production with runners on has significantly jumped each of the last three seasons. It’s done the same in the more specific runners in scoring position category.

Alec Bohm With Runners On Base

YearSlash LinewRC+
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Alec Bohm With Runners In Scoring Position

YearSlash LinewRC+
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

To compare, Bohm has posted a wRC+ of 85, 101, and 89 with the bases empty in each of the last three years, respectively. His slugging percentages in those situations haven’t eclipsed the .400 mark in any of those seasons.

Bohm’s splits against right-handed and left-handed pitching are also drastically different. For his career, the right-handed hitter has a .892 OPS and 139 wRC+ versus southpaws. Those same numbers against right-handed pitching are .669 and 84.

One more area Bohm has made strides in is his production against fastballs. Bohm excelled against that pitch type in his limited at-bats in his rookie season. The next year, he wasn’t nearly as good. He hit a measly .194 against fastballs in 2021 while slugging .269 against them. His numbers against fastballs were way better in 2022 — a .296 average and .411 slugging percentage — and in 2023 — a .269 average and .410 slugging percentage.

There have been some areas of growth for Bohm over the last three years. There is still room for more improvement, though.

Where To Improve

One of the first ways Bohm can improve is figuring out how to produce with nobody on base the way he did with runners on base in 2023.

The first step in doing so would be to find out why he’s been better with men on base. Does his approach change? Does he see the ball better when pitchers are delivering from the stretch?

“Nobody on base, there’s not much that the game is telling you to do,” Bohm recently told Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia’s third baseman continued, “…The more often that there’s a task at hand and something to be done, you’re more locked in on an approach. You’re just trying to see the ball, get a good pitch, and do what you do and not necessarily try to do anything special.”

Why Bohm doesn’t think that way with nobody on base is interesting. But it would likely help him to always, as he put it, “see the ball, get a good pitch… and not necessarily try to do anything special.”

Now, it’s entirely possible last year was an outlier. Maybe this year he’ll be closer to average with runners on. However, he admitted to having a different mindset in different situations. Promoting the part-time successful approach to his full-time approach feels like a wise decision.

Finding the perfect balance of selectivity and aggressiveness could certainly aid Bohm, too. Not getting overly swing happy, but also making pitchers pay for their mistakes would allow Bohm to possibly reach the potential many felt he had coming out of college and after his first full professional season.

Last year, Bohm swung at pitches 49.4% of the time, according to Sports Info Solutions. Out of 113 qualified hitters, that was the 42nd-highest mark in Major League Baseball. He also made a lot of contact. Bohm’s 84.4% contact rate was 15th among qualified hitters last year. But that didn’t always result in making quality contact. Bohm’s 5.7% barrel rate last year fell into the 23rd percentile, per Baseball Savant.

Those same numbers, when combining the last three years, are just as unimpressive. Of 226 qualified hitters since the start of 2021, Bohm’s 50.1% swing rate is 61st, 81.0% contact rate is 58th, and 6.4% barrel rate is 161st.

Part of Bohm’s high swing rate includes an inability to lay off pitches outside the strike zone. According to Sports Info Solutions, his 33.8% O-Swing rate is 80th among qualified hitters over the last three years. That’s not horrific, but it is too much for someone who doesn’t counter that aggressiveness with impressive results — something Bohm’s teammate, Bryce Harper, has started to do in recent years.

If Bohm were to stop swinging at everything and get more selective, he could start to focus more on trying to find pitches he can do damage with. Whether it’s the first or fifth pitch of an at-bat, looking for his pitch, specifically one he can pull, could boost Bohm’s offensive production.

Over the last two years, Bohm has had 306 plate appearances where he’s pulled the ball while keeping it in fair territory, according to FanGraphs. In those plate appearances, he hit .345/.343/.595 with a 155 wRC+. Cheating a bit more to try and do more damage pull-side could certainly lead to lower contact rates and more strikeouts for Bohm. But if the tradeoff is hitting for more power regularly, Bohm could certainly become a more productive hitter altogether.

All of these adjustments are easier said than done. Big-league pitching is the best it’s ever been. Hitting is harder than it’s ever been. But there was a good sign in Bohm’s first at-bat this spring. The approach is one he should look to adopt this year. He saw the ball, swung at a good pitch to hit, and didn’t necessarily try to do anything special. The result? He pulled, and barreled, the first pitch he saw for a long, loud home run.

Again, What To Make Of Alec Bohm

Bohm is entering his age-27 season. Some players make immediate impacts upon arrival to the majors. Some take time to develop into impactful players. Bohm certainly isn’t the former. Nor is he the latter. He’s caught somewhere in between as a solid, everyday contributor.

Taking that next step from contributor to impactful, middle-of-the-order bat could come this year for Bohm. It may not. It could take another year, or two, or never happen at all. He has shown us a few sneak peeks into what he’s capable of, though. And it’s more than being just an average, everyday hitter.

So, what is there to make of Bohm? Ask Phillies fans and you’ll receive a mixed bag of responses. He’s adored by some and bashed by others. The reality is this: he’s a fine, everyday contributor with room to continue growing.

If he can adjust his approach to become a more selective, aggressive hitter who doesn’t just swing at pitches because he can make contact with them and instead focuses on offering at pitches he can truly make quality contact with, then Bohm may be in for a big 2024 season. If he can’t put that together, he may end up as a guy who helps round out an offense rather than being a leader of one.

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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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