Trio of young Phillies hitters are showing signs of higher ceilings: 'It's real' (2024)

PHILADELPHIA — Brandon Marsh and Alec Bohm are living together this season. It might seem like a bit much because they spend most of their days together at ballparks across the country. One of them (Marsh) is loud. The other (Bohm) is quiet. They are both a little weird. But they know what to expect from each other.


There is something about being consistent, and this is a ballplayer’s mantra.

“We’re on the same path and have the same goal,” Marsh said. “Same schedule. We click well. We like to have a lot of fun together. I feel like that helps us.”

Consistent is a word Marsh has thought about since he came to the Phillies with his bushy beard and emerged as a cult hero during a wild postseason ride. It’s why he worked with Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long for almost two months before spring training started. All of it was designed to make Marsh more complete — someone who could play against both right- and left-handed pitchers. Someone who didn’t just bat in the bottom third of a lineup and contribute as a defender.

He hit fifth on Sunday. He walked twice, struck out, then clobbered a two-run homer to guarantee a stress-free 9-3 win over the Rockies. Marsh leads the majors in OPS. He’s been consistent — he has reached base safely in 20 of his 21 games this season.

It’s been a good three weeks. He unlocked something.

“I knew that was coming,” Long said after Sunday’s game. “I mean, everybody did. He did. I mean, he knew. He’s like, ‘Dude, my swing feels so amazing and so good.’ I said, ‘Exactly. And it’s going to feel the same way against lefties.’”

It’s been a good three weeks for Bohm, who has refined his power stroke. He drove in two more runs Sunday. He smacked a run-scoring double in the seventh inning when it was still a tenuous one-run Phillies lead. He leads the Phillies in RBIs with 18. He recorded his 18th RBI last season on May 30.

It’s also been a good three weeks for Bryson Stott, who is two months older than Marsh and 13 months younger than Bohm. Stott, 25, whipped a first-pitch slider into the right-field seats for a two-run homer Sunday. He has more two-strike hits than anyone in baseball. He’s entrenched as the leadoff hitter on a team with championship aspirations.


“They’ve put themselves in a really good position to keep having success,” Kyle Schwarber said. “I’m not saying that just because it’s a good month. I’m saying this because we saw it in spring training. We saw the way that they’ve worked here and the way they’re working down in the cage. We see the way that they are as teammates. They’ve taken that next step. That’s really cool to see.”

The Phillies are 11-12 and still seeking their identity. The biggest revelation, for now, is the three youngest players in the lineup. It’s a good three weeks. Marsh won’t lead the majors in OPS this season. Bohm and Stott will endure slumps.

Still, they look like they’ve made meaningful progress. There is evidence to believe these three weeks are something …

“Real,” Schwarber said. “It’s real. … When you see it on a daily basis, it’s really impressive.”

Trio of young Phillies hitters are showing signs of higher ceilings: 'It's real' (1)

Alec Bohm greets Bryson Stott after Stott’s two-run home run. (Eric Hartline / USA Today)

The Phillies have been heartbroken by most of their hitting prospects for more than 15 years now. There is a natural predisposition to believe it’s not real. The hardest thing to find in baseball is a dependable everyday player. It is easy to typecast Bohm, Marsh and Stott as solid players who do enough to merit regular at-bats on a good team. Solid. But nothing more than that.

Maybe they are more.

“I mean, these guys were really, really talented,” Long said. “And when talent meets what they find out they can do, it becomes pretty scary.”

Long, the veteran hitting coach, is a believer. He is also a realist. He knows regression will hunt down his three young hitters because it spares no one.

“They’re going to have weeks, months of it,” Long said. “It’s going to come. I know it’s coming. They’re just, all three, in a really good spot right now. But they’ll go through some scuffles.”

But they’ve proven enough to convince Long that they’ll survive.


“It’s fun watching those three go about their business,” Long said.

He thought about Stott, who ditched his old swing in the middle of last season to adopt Long’s simplified, two-strike approach. No stride. No leg kick. He succeeded. But Stott wanted to be better against fastballs and he didn’t want to sacrifice so much power potential. He tried to perfect a toe-tap in his swing during the offseason. He used it in the spring. It was not consistent.

“We got a week of spring training left,” Long said. “I said, ‘Dude, you’re done. We’re going no stride. It’s time. We already know what we got there.’ And he’s done amazing with it.”

Stott began the season with a 17-game hitting streak. He sat Saturday for the first time all season. He returned Sunday and connected for his second homer.

He has struck out 21 times with three walks, which Long identified as the next adjustment. The reworked swing has unintended side effects.

“You think you can touch every ball that’s even close,” Long said. “So now he’s got to retrain his strike zone. Now he’s in a good position all the time. So he’s got one more obstacle to cover, and he’s a little bit concerned with it. I’m not.”

Bohm was similar in that he can make contact often, but the quality of contact has become a priority to him.He came into spring training with confidence. He knew he could generate more power by adding strength and making better swing decisions.

Long loved it Sunday when Bohm did not take a greedy swing with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning. A bigger hack might have resulted in an extra-base hit — or a strikeout. Instead, Bohm saw the situation and just tried to put the ball in play. His run-scoring groundout pushed the Phillies ahead for good.

“He has got such good bat-to-ball skills for a guy his size,” Long said. “He truly amazes me at how consistent he is. He finds the barrel an awful lot. He’s a really, really good hitter. He was going to be a good hitter whether he met me or not. I’m just going to try to push him to be an All-Star-caliber player, which I think he can be. He’s getting there. He’s learning how to drive in runs.


“So he’s maturing as a ballplayer. He’s maturing as an individual.”

Then there’s Marsh, who is hitting a remarkable .364/.455/.758 in 77 plate appearances. He has overhauled his swing. He bought into Long’s ideas and dedicated his winter to time with the hitting coach in Arizona. “Advantage, Brandon Marsh — for the fact that he showed up four or five days a week diligently,” Long said. “He was ready to go and was ready to get better.” Even if the Phillies expected improvement when they acquired Marsh from the Angels at last year’s trade deadline, they did not envision this.

“When you’re swinging-and-missing that much, then this becomes really difficult because now the challenge is up here,” Long said. He pointed to his head. “And so, mentally, now you’re defeated and you’re swinging-and-missing all the time. But he was late. Really, the constant thing with March was being late.”

He’s right on time, as far as the Phillies see it.

Trio of young Phillies hitters are showing signs of higher ceilings: 'It's real' (2)

“I mean, these guys were really, really talented,” Kevin Long said. “And when talent meets what they find out they can do, it becomes pretty scary.” (Rich Graessle / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Schwarber remembers the sensation as the young guy discovering how good he could be while performing on the biggest stage. He has watched these three young Phillies hitters, with three different personalities, bond. It’s helped to have Schwarber, a natural big brother, in the room. But Bohm, Stott and Marsh also have each other.

“The good teams are the teams that like each other,” Schwarber said. “And that enjoy each other. They love each other when they stink and they’re going to love each other when they win. Right?”

Or, as Marsh put it: “Hey, you know, the young guys gotta stick together.”

Zack Wheeler, who struck out 11 Rockies hitters in six innings Sunday, has enjoyed it from his vantage point. The Phillies are missing key players; they need contributions from other sources until Bryce Harper returns and “June Schwarber” arrives. The three young hitters have pushed each other.

“Guy gets a knock. You want to do something a little better,” Wheeler said. “Just friendly competitions in baseball that drive you to be a little bit better sometimes. Guys need to step up, and they’re stepping up. That’s kind of what led us to where we went last year.”

That’s what makes someone reliable. The beard makes Marsh look old, but Sunday was only his 225th game in the majors. He debuted less than two years ago. He ordered gloves that have “BELIEVE” stitched on them. Whenever he hits a home run, he points to the sky to honor his late father. He touches the inside of his left arm with his right hand.

He has a tattoo there, in all lowercase letters: “believe.”

It’s a good place to start.

“It’s going to work,” Long said. “I truly believe that. They’re going to be pretty consistent.”

(Top photo of Brandon Marsh: Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

Trio of young Phillies hitters are showing signs of higher ceilings: 'It's real' (3)Trio of young Phillies hitters are showing signs of higher ceilings: 'It's real' (4)

Matt Gelb is a senior writer for The Athletic covering the Philadelphia Phillies. He has covered the team since 2010 while at The Philadelphia Inquirer, including a yearlong pause from baseball as a reporter on the city desk. He is a graduate of Syracuse University and Central Bucks High School West.

Trio of young Phillies hitters are showing signs of higher ceilings: 'It's real' (2024)
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