Can Alec Bohm Stick at Third Base Long-Term?

Inside The Phillies
Inside The Phillies

Alec Bohm was one of the league's worst fielders in 2021. As trade rumors swirl this offseason, it would mean a lot for the Phillies if Bohm could put a hammerlock on his natural position.

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On Aug. 7, Alec Bohm had 15 errors, he would be demoted from his starting role two days later, and demoted to the minors barely a week after that. Even with missing the final month and a half of 2021, Bohm still tied for fourth in National League in errors.

Bohm is not a good third baseman, whether you use eye test or analytics, his defense leaves much to be desired. Some blame his 6’5” height for impacting his range, but players like Kris Bryant and Scott Rolen have proven that tall stature doesn’t necessarily mean a bad defender.

By Baseball-Reference’s DRS metric, Bohm was worth -13 runs at third base in 2021 and -6 in 2020. These numbers track somewhat similarly to both Ryan Braun’s and Miguel Cabrera’s first few years in the majors.

Braun won Rookie of the Year at third base in 2007, but was moved to left field after losing 32 runs by DRS in 2007. Likewise, Cabrera debuted as an outfielder in 2003, but was moved to third base in 2006; there he was worth -29 DRS over two seasons before being traded to Detroit.

At present, the Philadelphia Phillies probably don’t want to move Bohm off of third base. They have no minor league talent at the position and were Bohm forced to move anywhere, he’d be blocked at first base by Rhys Hoskins, barring the introduction of the universal DH in 2022.

Thus it seems the Phillies must trade for a third baseman or make one out of Bohm, using his strengths to offset his weaknesses. Baseball Savant seems to believe there may be a future path for Bohm at third.

Savant’s OAA (outs above average) rates Bohm’s defense much higher than Baseball-Reference’s DRS. OAA postulates that Bohm was worth only -2 OAA at third base in 2021, a very manageable total.

They also breakdown where Bohm struggled and excelled in 2021. Moving vertically, coming in and going back for balls Bohm struggled, he was worth -2 OAA in those categories. Moving to his left he was even worse, worth -3 OAA in that aspect, but moving right, towards third base, Bohm was well above average, worth +3 OAA.

While the Phillies likely have far more advanced analytics at their disposal than what is available via Baseball Savant and the internet, this data presumes that Bohm’s fielding might be improved were he shifted further left, towards first base. There, the Phillies could exploit his positive range and reaction time on balls hit to his backhand and hide his failings on balls hit to his glove hand.

Of course, Bohm would still be in the negative when moving forward or back, but perhaps some of his defensive value could be saved and the Phillies might have one less hole to fill in 2022.

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