This time, the Phillies have to be right. Alec Bohm has to be the rarest of big-league gems, the guy who can hit for power and average without compiling triple-figure strikeouts. Alec Bohm, dare we say it, needs to be a superstar.
Maybe that is putting a lot of pressure on a young man who was not drafted out of high school three years ago and who woke up Tuesday morning — for the first time in his life — with a chance to be a professional athlete. So be it. That pressure is a byproduct of timing.
"I've actually kind of taken a liking to them in the past couple of months," the Wichita State third baseman said when asked about his knowledge of the Phillies, shortly after becoming the third overall pick in Monday's MLB draft. "They have a young club, and they're doing better than they were expected to. I like them so far. They've kind of become one of my favorites."
The Phillies, of course, believe they are on the verge of being good again, and if they want to be great in the near future, they need Bohm to be Mr. Right. They need him to sign soon and come fast to the big leagues. They need him to write a story similar to the one penned by Kris Bryant, the third baseman the Phillies will play against the next three days in Chicago's Wrigley Field.
Bryant, a slugger who is similar in size to Bohm, was drafted second overall in 2013 out of the University of San Diego, and by 2015 he became a staple in the middle of the Cubs' lineup, winning the National League rookie of the year award and then the league MVP while leading his team to a World Series title that fans on the North Side of Chicago never thought they would see.
Maybe that's putting a lot of pressure on amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz, who is in his fourth year of making the Phillies' draft selections. Again, so be it. Almaraz drafted high school outfielder Cornelius Randolph with the 10th overall pick in 2015 and another high school outfielder, Mickey Moniak, with the first overall pick in 2016. Almaraz tried to convince us last week that both are doing just fine as they try to climb through the minor leagues.
"We drafted good players," Almaraz said. "They are young. If you look at them as a whole, they are doing well. They are on track, and we have been very aggressive with them, and we feel very positive about them."
Moniak did just turn 20 and did just have an 11-game hitting streak that briefly pushed his overall batting average above .250, but nobody is buying that he has done well to this point of his minor-league career. Ditto for Randolph, who is a .253 hitter in four minor-league seasons and batting .185 at double-A Reading through Sunday.
Only Adam Haseley, the eighth overall pick last season, has produced encouraging results among the Phillies' first-round picks selected during Almaraz's tenure. The outfielder from Virginia hit .290 at high-A Clearwater and .366 in his last 21 games for the Threshers.
When you have four picks in the top 10 over the course of four years, you have to get at least one superstar in the bunch, and preferably you get two. Look at the Cubs' lineup when they play the Phillies this week, and you'll see four players – Bryant, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Kyle Schwarber – who were top 10 picks from 2011 through 2014. The Cubs got it right with those guys, and that's why they are among the National League elite.
The Phillies need Haseley to climb to double-A Reading this season, and they need Alec Bohm to join him as a fast riser.
"He's a college kid who can advance pretty quickly through the system," Almaraz said.
It was clear that Almaraz liked his latest first-round pick a lot. There was some thought the Phillies might take Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal, a 5-foot-7 fire plug who hit well over .400 in his junior season.
"It was very, very close," Almaraz said. "The one thing over the years that I prefer is someone that can hit for average and power. If you go look at Alec Bohm, he's a very low-strikeout, high-walk-rate hitter. That plays at this level for a lot of years."
Bohm, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound righthanded hitter, batted .339 with 14 doubles, 16 home runs, and 55 RBIs during his recently completed junior season with the Shockers. He struck out just 28 times in 224 at-bats.
"We loved the bat, we loved the offensive capabilities," Almaraz said.