If all goes according to plan, the Phillies signed their third baseman of the future Tuesday. The next stop for Alec Bohm, the third overall pick in last week’s draft, is Clearwater, Fla., where he will play his first professional game in the Gulf Coast League next week.
The hope, of course, is that he gets to the big leagues in a hurry by displaying the kind of power that plays exceptionally well in Citizens Bank Park. Bohm, 21, acknowledged that the confines of the place look pretty friendly for his skill set.
“Definitely a hitter-friendly park,” Bohm said. “I like it.”
The truth about third base is that the Phillies have already waited long enough for a long-term solution at the position.
For nearly three decades, they could not have had better fortune at the hot corner. From mid-September 1972 until Memorial Day 1989, they had Mike Schmidt, the greatest third baseman in the history of the game.
In 1992 and 1993, Dave Hollins was among the most productive offensive players at that position, making an all-star team while also helping the Phillies reach a World Series. You can’t ask for anything more than that from a Rule 5 draft pick.
Scott Rolen, a second-round pick in 1993, arrived in 1996 and was among the top three players at the position his entire tenure with the Phillies before being traded to St. Louis in the middle of the 2002 season.
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Schimdt, Hollins and Rolen finished in the top five in OPS (on-base-average plus slugging percentage) among big-league third basemen 20 times over a 29-year period from 1974 through 2002. Thanks to Schmidt and Rolen, the Phillies also had a Gold Glove winner at the position in 14 of those years.
Since Rolen’s departure, however, a total of 49 players have taken a stab at playing third base and shame on you if you don’t remember Hector Luna, Brad Harman or Reid Brignac.
Pedro Feliz, with occasional relief help from Greg Dobbs, did do a solid job of manning third base during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Both, in fact, should be in attendance when the Phillies celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their last title team in August.
But mostly third base has been a huge hole for the Phillies over the last 15 years. The Phillies have finished 21st or lower in OPS at third base 12 times during that stretch, including 28th last year. This year, the Phillies’ third basemen ranked 25th in OPS at .698 going into Tuesday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies.
The team’s highest OPS since 2002 came in 2015, when the Phillies finished 10th, mainly because Maikel Franco had a promising rookie season, hitting .280 with 22 doubles, 14 home runs and 50 RBIs in 80 games. Back then, Franco was the third baseman of the future, a top prospect with great power potential.
That seems so long ago now.
After attending a news conference following his signing Tuesday, Bohm took batting practice with the big-league club. He was in a group with Franco, who has not been in the starting lineup for five straight games. Franco has a .283 on-base percentage over his last 210 games, and that is a large enough sample size that the Phillies have formed a strong opinion about him.
They have decided it is time to take a longer look at rookie J.P. Crawford at third base while Scott Kingery plays shortstop. Franco likely will be in the lineup when the Phillies face Colorado lefthander Tyler Anderson on Wednesday, but it sure appears as if he has become their third baseman of the past, even if he remains on the roster for the rest of this season.
That title of future third baseman now belongs to Alec Bohm. All scouts who saw Bohm loved his bat at Wichita State, but some questioned whether the 6-foot-5 Bohm will be able to play third base.
“I feel very comfortable there,” he said before launching a couple of batting-practice home runs, including one on his final swing of the afternoon. “I’ve always played there.”
The Phillies insist that’s where he’ll remain.
“I am 100 percent convinced he is going to be a third baseman,” said Justin Munson, the area scout who signed the Omaha, Neb., native. “I’ve made that clear in my reports and stated multiple times that from everything I’ve seen, there is no hesitation on my end that he will continue to play third base at the next level and continue to develop there.”
That’s good news for the Phillies because they’ve been waiting a long time for their third baseman of the future to arrive.