The Phillies obviously are in a better situation now than they have been since the end of 2011, the year they finished with the best regular-season record in franchise history before enduring the slow and painful process of watching the core of their second great era crumble.
You could argue – and many have – that poor drafts were responsible for the Phillies’ demise, but usually forgotten is the fact that for an entire decade, from 2004 through 2013, the Phillies did not have a pick in the top half of the first round and they had only three selections among the top 20.
That was a byproduct of being good and also being aggressive on the free-agent market, both things you want your team to be. The draft process is what suffers. The lower you pick, the bigger the crapshoot.
The Phillies’ draft landscape, however, has changed drastically in recent years. For the fifth straight season last year, they had a first-round selection among the top 10 in baseball. No other team in baseball had more top 10 picks in that span and 22 of 30 teams had either one or none.
This, in other words, has been a golden opportunity for the Phillies to start another golden age.
The Phillies used their top 10 picks on pitcher Aaron Nola (No. 7 in 2014), outfielder Cornelius Randolph (No. 10 in 2015), outfielder Mickey Moniak (No. 1 in 2016), outfielder Adam Haseley (No. 8 in 2017), and third baseman Alec Bohm (No. 3 in 2018).
Nola obviously has already arrived in a big way, finishing third in the National League Cy Young Award voting last season. The other four picks are still works in progress, and some of them, to be frank, need a lot of work.
The best bet to get to the big leagues first might be Bohm, for a variety of reasons.
The first one is his performance. After a difficult introduction to professional baseball a year ago, during which he had more trips to the disabled list (one with a knee injury that cost him a month) than home runs, Bohm came out smoking hot this season. He hit .367 with nine doubles, three home runs, and 11 RBIs in 22 games with low-A Lakewood to become the organization’s minor-league player of the month for April and earn a quick promotion to high-A Clearwater.
“I think it was really good for me to struggle and figure things out,” Bohm said by phone. “I didn’t succeed all that much, but I learned a lot. It gave me an idea of what I needed to work on and that’s what I focused on in the offseason. I came to spring training prepared and so far it has paid off.”
Bohm said the thing he worked on most was his defense. He made eight errors in 20 games as a third baseman last season at Williamsport, which fueled the speculation that he might have to move to another position.
“I just kind of like to think that those guys don’t know what they’re talking about,” Bohm said. “Really, I just respectfully disagree with them.”
Bohm, 22, made just two errors in his first 21 games at third base this season. He has also played five games at first base, but Josh Bonifay, the Phillies’ first-year director of player development, said that’s only because of the organization’s philosophy of position flexibility.
“He came in extremely prepared to play third base,” Bonifay said. “You can see the improvement in his footwork and every other aspect of the game.”
Bohm has also shown his first glimpse of professional power, hitting three home runs at Lakewood. He has not yet hit a home run for Clearwater. He homered 33 times in 166 games at Wichita State.
“I wasn’t too worried about not hitting a home run last year,” Bohm said. “I know my power is there. It’s not like I forgot to hit home runs. They haven’t really tweaked too much with my swing. Some little things here and there that have helped me elevate the ball a little more.”
Another reason Bohm could be the first to the big leagues among the Phillies’ most recent first-round picks is circumstances. He’s older than both Randolph and Moniak and only 113 days younger than Haseley. It is possible that Bohm joins the other three first-round picks at double-A Reading before this season is over.
In all likelihood, it will be a race between Bohm and Haseley to see who gets to the big leagues first because center fielder Odubel Herrera and third baseman Maikel Franco probably have the least future job security among the Phillies’ current starters. Cesar Hernandez fits into that category, too, but his replacement (Scott Kingery) is already in the big leagues.