Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm will begin 2020 with what should be just a taste of the big leagues, but their time next month in major-league spring training could provide the Phillies with a glimpse of the near future.
Howard and Bohm, two of the team’s top prospects, highlighted a group of 15 minor leaguers who received invites Monday as nonroster players to major-league spring training. The Phillies expect Howard, a right-handed starting pitcher, and Bohm, a third baseman, to reach Philadelphia at some point this season, and the two will spend the first few weeks of camp getting acclimated to the majors.
The minor-league players usually spend a few weeks on the major-league side before moving across the Carpenter Complex when minor-league camp opens. Major-league camp will begin Feb. 11 in Clearwater, Fla. The Phillies would prefer that Howard and Bohm open the season at triple A, but a strong showing in camp — like the one Scott Kingery had in 2018 — might alter their plans. Both prospects play positions that the Phillies would like to upgrade.
The Phillies also invited 2016 first overall pick Mickey Moniak, an outfielder; right-handed pitchers Connor Brogdon, Ramon Rosso, and Addison Russ; left-handed pitchers Kyle Dohy, Tyler Gilbert, Damon Jones, and Zach Warren; first basemen Darick Hall and Austin Listi; catcher Henri Lartigue; shortstop Nick Maton; and infielder/outfielder Luke Williams.
Kingery is pegged to start the season at third base, but he either will shift to second base or return to being a utility player once Bohm is ready. Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta will compete for the final rotation spot, which seems to be waiting for Howard to claim. Keeping Howard and Bohm in triple A for the first weeks of the season would allow the Phillies to delay their eventual free agency by a season.
Bohm finished last season in double A, where he batted .269 with a .844 OPS and 14 homers in 63 games. He hit for power, reached base at a strong rate, and limited his strikeouts. The biggest question is his ability to defend, but the Phillies strongly believe that he can handle third base.
“We still view Alec Bohm as a third baseman. We did the day that we drafted him,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “We think he’s made impressive strides in the minor leagues in a relatively short period of time. We still very much view him as a third baseman.
"It’s reasonable to expect he will impact our major-league club at some point next year. I don’t know when that will be. I don’t know what the circumstances will be that will lead to that. But I think if he continues on his development path, I think it’s very reasonable he could factor in for us next year. That’s something we need to consider as we make the rest of our offseason decisions.”
Howard was dominant last season at double A, but he threw just shy of 100 innings over the entire 2019 season. The Phillies will want to keep him on an innings limit, hoping to have him in their rotation in August and September if they are chasing a postseason berth.
The 23-year-old had a 2.35 ERA last season with 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings in six double-A starts. His stint in major-league camp and his time in triple A will allow Howard to become acclimated to gripping major-league baseballs, which have a tighter seam than the balls used in the lower levels.
“Spencer Howard has not thrown with a major-league baseball yet, and we learned this year probably more than any other prior year how big of an impact that is having on pitcher development,” Klentak said. “So we need to give him an opportunity to pitch with a major-league ball before we put him in the rotation.
"But if everything breaks right for him and his health is good next year, I think it’s very reasonable to expect he could impact our 2020 club. That would be a great thing for us.”