SAN DIEGO -- It was easy for the Phillies as they charted out the season to imagine entering September fighting for a playoff spot and Alec Bohm hitting in the middle of their lineup. The season’s final month is nearly a week away and the Phillies find themselves battling to remain in contention.
But Bohm, a season after a dynamic rookie year, won’t be helping. The Phillies dropped Bohm to triple A on Sunday morning after his struggles both offensively and defensively moved him earlier this month to the bench.
“I think we just got to the point that we felt like this was the combination of the best thing for him and the best thing for us,” Phillies general manager Sam Fuld said.
Bohm hit .245 with a .645 OPS in 407 plate appearances and has the fourth-lowest slugging percentage (.342) in the majors. But it was his defense that cost him his every-day job this month. Joe Girardi started Bohm just three times in the last 11 games. His 17 errors are the fifth-most in the National League and his minus-11 defensive runs saved is the worst among NL third basemen.
So the Phillies will use Ronald Torreyes and Brad Miller at third base while the player they expected to play a key role this season heads to the minor leagues.
“I think this is going to be a good thing for him,” Fuld said. “It’s a tough thing for him to internalize at this point, but a lot of good players have had this moment in their careers. There are Hall of Famers who were sent down. Some Philly greats who were sent down in their careers after spending some significant major-league time. The guy we just honored in Philly, Roy Halladay, is a great example.”
Bohm, the third overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft, hit .338 last season in 44 games with an .881 OPS. He finished second in the voting for the NL’s Rookie of the Year and was praised by Girardi for his “slow heartbeat” and ability to not look like a rookie. But it’s been a different story in Bohm’s second season.
He hit .291 since June 1 but just 11 of his 52 hits were for extra bases. His slugging percentage last season (.481) was the highest among NL rookies with at last 100 plate appearances, but that power was missing in his sophomore season. Those defensive struggles may have been easier to live with if his bat was as powerful as it was last summer.
“It’s difficult to say,” Fuld said when asked what happened to Bohm’s power. “I think the success and the power go hand in hand. We saw some top-end power last year when he was squaring everything up. I think the power will definitely come. We feel really confident that that will happen. He’s displayed it in the minor leagues. He displayed it last year. He displayed it here at times. I think it comes along with just having success and being able to put the barrel on the ball. Like most players, I think he’s going to hit home runs when he’s not trying to hit home runs.”
Fuld said the Phillies do not have a timetable on Bohm’s return, but it does not seem like they will rush him back to the majors. They told him to go to triple A and “have fun.” There are just six weeks left in the season and Bohm may spend the bulk of that time in the minor leagues.
Freddy Galvis could return this week from the injured list, but none of the team’s options have the promise to produce offensively the way Bohm did last season. And that’s what made his struggles this season so frustrating. It felt safe to expect that Bohm would play a key role in a playoff race. Instead, he’ll play Tuesday night in Allentown for the Iron Pigs.
“I think what we saw last year was a player who had nothing to lose and this year is a little different,” Fuld said. “He set some expectations for himself. The whole club had expectations for him. The city had expectations for him. And it’s harder to have fun that way. The message is a lot easier said than done, but I think he and most players are at their best when they’re having fun and taking some of the pressure off themselves as best as possible.”