On Monday, Phillies’ third baseman Alec Bohm was announced as a finalist for the NL Rookie of the Year Award.

This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who watched Alec Bohm play for the Phillies in 2020 – he was absolutely phenomenal. However, there were many deserving candidates in the National League this year, so Bohm’s nomination is still highly exciting.

Even if Bohm loses the award, we can take pride in knowing that he beat out talented rookies like Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pirates, Tony Gonsolin of the Dodgers, and Ian Anderson of the Braves.

In 180 plate appearances this year, Alec Bohm’s triple-slash line was .338/.400/.481.

That batting average would have been good enough for third place in the National League, but unfortunately, Bohm was six PAs short of qualifying for the batting title.

However, even if he went 0-for-6 in those plate appearances, Bohm still would have led all NL third basemen in batting average (.325) and on-base percentage (.387). His OPS (.851) would have been second behind only superstar Manny Machado.

Bohm’s advanced metrics are equally impressive. Among NL third basemen, Bohm was fifteenth in games played (44) but third in fWAR (1.2). His wRC+ was 138, meaning he hit 38% better than the league average. For context, Bryce Harper’s career wRC+ is 138.

In other words, Alec Bohm was awesome in 2020. But as a Phillies fan, I can’t help but be skeptical of his success. I’ve had my heart broken too many times by Phillies prospects who showed glimmers of stardom at the Major League level but never lived up to their potential.

Nick Williams had a .811 OPS in his rookie season. Maikel Franco’s was .840.  Jorge Alfaro’s was .874. None of these guys have hit for an OPS above .800 since.

Photo: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

I could go on and talk about all the Phillies pitching prospects who never lived up to their potential (remember Jesse Biddle, anyone?) I could regale you all with the tragic tale of Domonic Brown. I could tell you that Aaron Nola is the only homegrown star this team has developed since Cole Hamels. But I think you get the point.

As a lifelong Phillies fan, I’ll never be able to shake the nagging voice in the back of my head that tells me Alec Bohm’s rookie season is just an outlier. After all, his BABIP was .410, which is entirely unsustainable. That’s bad because a large part of Bohm’s success this season was due to his ability to get base hits. His walk rate of 8.9% was merely average, and so was his isolated power of .144. If Alec Bohm regresses and hits fewer singles next year, then his offensive stats could plummet. Even worse, Bohm’s defense at third base last season was poor, and many experts think he won’t be good enough to play there long term. That’s a lot of cause for concern.

However, while the nagging voice in the back of my head is a skeptic, my heart will always be an optimist. And despite Bohm’s high BABIP and low BB% and ISO, there are many reasons to be optimistic about Bohm going forward.

If anyone else is looking for reasons to be optimistic about Bohm, I highly suggest you check out his page on Baseball Savant. Bohm is above average according to all the major Statcast numbers, which are very helpful for predicting future performance. In particular, his hard-hit percentage (46.8%) and average exit velocity (90.2 MPH) are both very promising. These numbers suggest that Bohm should be able to maintain a high BABIP going forward. No one can maintain a BABIP of .400, but a number like .340 is a reasonable expectation.

Photo: Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

According to Statcast, Bohm’s expected batting average (which takes into account exit velocity, launch angle, and sprint speed) was .286 last season. While that isn’t nearly as good as the .338 number he ended up with, it’s still excellent. A batting average of .286 would have led the Phillies in each of the past three seasons. Bohm’s expected slugging percentage in 2020 was .464. While that isn’t great, that slugging percentage still would have ranked in the top five among NL third basemen last year. More importantly, that number shows that Bohm should be capable of maintaining a decent slugging percentage even without a high BABIP. Plus, his power numbers are likely to improve as he ages.

While Bohm’s underlying plate discipline numbers on Fangraphs are only average at best, that shouldn’t be too much cause for concern. For one thing, Bohm ranks in the top 20 of the Statcast Swing/Take metric, which tries to quantify a hitter’s overall plate approach.

Furthermore, Bohm is only 24, he skipped Triple-A, and he’s only played 42 games at the Major League level. As with his power numbers, we can expect that his plate discipline will improve over time. After all, his walk rate in the minors was over 10%, and even then he was always young for his level.

Thus, while Bohm’s BABIP is sure to regress next season, his underlying numbers are still very promising. They’re promising enough to quiet the skeptic in the back of my head and allow me to listen to my heart.
And my heart tells me that Bohm is going to be a star.

Featured Image: Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer
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