The Phillies announced they’ve activated first baseman Rhys Hoskins from the 10-day injured list. Somewhat surprisingly, Philadelphia optioned struggling corner infielder Alec Bohm to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in a corresponding move.
Hoskins is back after a two-week absence due to a left groin strain. He’s starting at first base and hitting fifth in this afternoon’s game against the Padres. Hoskins has hit at his typically productive level this year, slashing .244/.332/.509 with 24 home runs over 434 plate appearances. That kind of offensive production will be welcome for the suddenly slumping Phils, who have gone just 5-8 since he last played on August 5. Coupled with the Braves’ recent tear, the Phillies have fallen five games back in the National League East.
Bohm has been in the majors since Philadelphia selected him to make his debut last August. The former #3 overall pick and top prospect began his career with a flourish, hitting .338/.400/.481 over his first 180 trips to the plate. That earned him a runner-up finish in NL Rookie of the Year award voting.
That strong showing locked Bohm in as the season-opening third baseman in 2021. The Phils no doubt expected more of the same offensive impact from the right-handed hitter, but he’s struggled mightily in his sophomore campaign. Through 407 plate appearances, Bohm is hitting .245/.302/.342 with seven home runs. After adjusting for Philadelphia’s hitter-friendly home park, that production checks in 24 percentage points worse than the league average.
Bohm’s strikeout rate has jumped from 20% last season to a subpar 26.5% in 2021, while his walk rate has dipped slightly. While that’s a discouraging development, the bigger issue is that Bohm’s results on batted balls have nosedived. Bohm was never likely to sustain last season’s .410 batting average on balls in play, so it’s unsurprising his BABIP has dropped to .323 this year. That’s still higher than the .293 league average — reflective of Bohm’s ability to spray hard contact to all fields — but it reinforces that Bohm needs to do more damage from a power standpoint if he’s to be an impactful offensive player.
To this point, he’s shown surprisingly little extra-base thump. It’s not for a lack of strength; Bohm’s 92.4 MPH average exit velocity and 50.2% hard hit rate both check in among the top ten percent of qualified hitters. He’s been unable to hit the ball in the air with consistency, though, negating much of the value that comes with making authoritative contact. Bohm’s 52.8% ground-ball rate is eighth-highest among 119 hitters with 400+ plate appearances. That’s not a good place for a potential power hitter, and he’s the only player in the top ten in ground-ball rate who’s also striking out at a higher than average clip.
If Bohm isn’t hitting well, he’s not providing much in the way of value. Prospect rankers long raised questions about his defensive ability at third base, and the advanced metrics suggest he’s been a below-average defender this season. Ronald Torreyes is a superior gloveman at the hot corner, while utilityman Brad Miller could factor into the third base mix as well while Bohm’s in the minors.
Down 2021 notwithstanding, the Phillies are likely still counting on Bohm to make an impact in the not-too-distant future. It wouldn’t be surprising if he’s brought back to the majors in short order, with active rosters set to expand to 28 on September 1. A brief demotion could serve to get Bohm a mental reset without dealing with the pressure of a pennant race.
Today’s option won’t have any effect on Bohm’s path to free agency, but it could impact when he reaches arbitration. He didn’t debut in the majors until too late in the 2020 season to reach a full year of MLB service last year, so he entered 2021 with 128 days of service time. He has banked enough time to reach his first full year of service this season, so he’ll remain on track for free agency after the 2026 campaign. Bohm could plausibly qualify for arbitration after next season as a Super Two player (assuming the Super Two system even survives the new round of collective bargaining negotiations), but a lengthy optional assignment could keep him from reaching arbitration until the 2023-24 offseason.