Alec Bohm weighed 240 pounds three years ago, when he enrolled at Wichita State, the only school that offered him a scholarship after he left high school without being one of the 1,215 players selected in the 2015 MLB Draft.
Professional baseball — let alone being the third-overall pick in Monday’s draft — perhaps never felt further than it did during his first days on campus. But there was Bohm on Monday night, buttoning a Phillies jersey and pulling on a red hat after the Phils drafted him with their first-round pick.
In three years, Bohm went from an overlooked high-school player to a can’t-miss prospect.
“It’s crazy,” Bohm said. “It’s a pretty unexplainable experience.”
Bohm lost 20 pounds at Wichita State and developed into one of college baseball’s premier power hitters. He batted .339 this season for the Shockers, with a 1.061 OPS and 16 homers. Bohm’s stock rose last summer at the wooden-bat Cape Cod League, where he hit .351 with a .912 OPS and five homers in 154 at-bats.
The Phillies are confident that Bohm can stay at third base, but he could move to first base, right field, or left field. It was Bohm’s bat that outweighed any concerns about his defense.
“He can really hit,” Phillies amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz said after the pick. “He’s got a lot of leverage in that swing, he can drive the ball out to all parts of the field. He’s got what I call wide-field power, meaning that he can hit home runs from gap to gap . …We loved the bat, we loved the offensive capabilities.”
Almaraz said the Phillies “were very, very lucky” to land Bohm. They scouted him during his senior season at Roncalli Catholic High School in Omaha, Neb., and thought he was a player who needed to go to college. Almaraz credited Wichita State head coach Todd Butler for the “tremendous job” he did with Bohm.
“He has progressed and developed at that school,” Almaraz said. “When you have a chance to lift [weights] and play three or four games a week and then have that entire offseason to be a full-time baseball player at the collegiate level, you have a chance to progress slowly and gain strength. You become better automatically through natural maturation and growth.”
The Phillies love Bohm’s power potential, but they also are drawn to his plate discipline. Bohm, who will turn 22 in August, had 28 strikeouts and 39 walks in 224 at-bats this season. He fits the front office’s value of players who control the strike zone and reach base at a high rate. He is more than just a masher.
“Maturity led to plate discipline, being more selective. That led me to get into the power more,” Bohm said. “I just don’t like to strike out, period. When I get to two strikes, I’m just putting the ball in play. I’m just up there trying to put the bat on the ball. Not really trying to do damage with two strikes.”
Almaraz saw Bohm play last month in a college game at Spectrum Field, the home ballpark of high-A Clearwater. Bohm faced South Florida lefthander Shane McClanahan, who was drafted 31st by the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday. Bohm commanded the zone “unbelievably well,” Almaraz said.
“McClanahan has a tremendous fastball, and [Bohm’s] at-bats were really easy,” Almaraz said. “He gets the barrel to the ball and drives it. He’s a good hitter.”
Bohm is expected to sign soon with the Phillies. He grew up as a Yankees fan in Nebraska, and the most he knows about Philadelphia is “they make a good cheesesteak.” He will soon come to Citizens Bank Park, meet the Phillies, surely grab a cheesesteak, and then head to Clearwater for his introduction to professional baseball. It will be the start of a life that three years ago must have felt pretty far away.
“I went through a lot of growth,” Bohm said. “I learned how to fail — those sorts of things. It helped shape me into who I am today.”