Three takeaways on 3 Phillies standouts in April: Can Bohm, Suárez, Hoffman maintain gains?

Ever since the Phillies drafted Alec Bohm with the third overall pick in 2018, he’s always looked capable of something greater. The Phillies scouted him at Wichita State and believed his advanced approach at the plate could be sustained — even when he added power to his game. He is tall and strong. He could be someone who mixed patience with slugging.

Maybe, in his fifth season with the Phillies, he’s solved it. Bohm, who entered this week batting .365/.441/.615, is the hottest hitter in the sport right now. Is he taking another step forward in his game?

“Possibly,” Rob Thomson said last week. “Or he could be just hot right now. Who knows.”

The Phillies manager wasn’t throwing shade at Bohm. He just knows that one month does not make a season — and that the Phillies have always dreamed of this version of Bohm. The mere thought of it is enticing. Bohm has become so much more comfortable with who he is on the field — both at the plate and on defense. So, April was the manifestation of hard work.

So, is it real?

Bohm is pulling the ball more than ever, and in doing so he’s found power. The Phillies tried to teach him how to pull the ball when he was in the minors and it never stuck. Bohm likes to use the whole field. He settled for singles on a pitcher’s good pitch rather than take it for a more hittable one. In April, he swung at strikes and took balls. His walk rate skyrocketed.

All of that is encouraging for Bohm. But, on average, he is hitting the ball about as hard as he has in previous seasons. And, in both 2022 and 2023, April was the month with Bohm’s highest average exit velocity. Teams adjusted to him and he wasn’t always quick enough to make the counter adjustment.

Bohm’s quality of contact — more pulled line drives — has improved. That cannot be disputed. If he is pickier at the plate and continues to have a feel for the strike zone, he can take his walks and still drive pitches. It’s all easier said than done.

“I hope,” Thomson said, “he keeps it going.”



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Jeff Hoffman has met the moment as top righty reliever

By the end of last season, Hoffman had become the club’s most trusted righty reliever. He earned it. But there is always an element of unknown with relievers — especially ones that make unexpected contributions. Can they do it again?

Hoffman’s first month this season has looked much like his work in 2023. It’s a huge development for the Phillies, who harbored enough internal skepticism not to engage in substantive negotiations with Hoffman about a contract extension, according to major-league sources. Hoffman is a free agent after the season. Maybe it is something they consider later this summer.

Either way, Hoffman has maintained his elite strikeout rate. (He entered the week ranked 12th among National League relievers.) His walk rate is the same. He’s allowed harder contact, which is something to monitor. He has kept the ball in the ballpark.

The Phillies have rewarded Hoffman with more chances at the end of games. He pitched in the ninth inning five times last season. He’s already appeared in the ninth inning seven times in 2024. Hoffman has lobbied for bigger spots. Seranthony Domínguez lost his confidence this April. The Phillies are still incorporating Orion Kerkering into the late-inning mix. Maybe they’re in the market come July for another high-leverage righty reliever. But, for now, Hoffman is the top option.

He hasn’t always pitched with his best velocity this April, but that hasn’t prevented Hoffman from leaning on his four-seam fastball. He’s throwing fewer sliders in 2024. The fastball, at 97 mph, is good enough to succeed even when he misses his spot against the opponent’s best hitter — like he did Sunday with Fernando Tatis Jr.

Righties remain unable to solve him. Hoffman held them to an astounding .122/.197./.226 line last season. It’s .143/.242/.179 this season. That makes him a weapon whenever the other team’s best righties are due to bat late in games.

The proof will be sustaining it for six months. But, in April, Hoffman showed no signs to suggest 2023 was an aberration.



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Ranger Suárez is wielding new weapons to generate weak contact

He should be a lock for National League pitcher of the month honors; only one Phillies pitcher has captured that award in the past 12 years. Zack Wheeler won it in May 2022. Suárez has done it his way — by commanding five different pitches on both sides of the plate. He has generated some of the weakest contact on average of any pitcher.

Bohm, when asked about the hypothetical challenge of facing Suárez, pointed to the front-hip sinker the lefty throws to righty hitters. It’s been a weapon in 2024. Righties have hit 6-for-33 with six singles and nine strikeouts against the Suárez sinker.

Suárez has gone sinker-heavy against lefty hitters, as usual, and it might be his worst offering right now. Instead, he has found success with the rare left-on-left changeup.

He’s already thrown more changeups to lefties (22) than he did all of last season (16). The changeup has played — no matter the handedness of that batter. Hitters are 1-for-25 with a single and 10 strikeouts on the changeup.

It won’t always look this easy for Suárez. His scoreless innings streak finally ended Saturday when Eguy Rosario clobbered Suárez’s fifth-best pitch, a cutter, for a homer. Suárez will see some eventual regression; batters are hitting grounders against him at an average exit velocity of 77.9 mph. It’s why so many of those grounders have been converted into easy outs. The lowest exit velocity on grounders for a starter since 2015 is Ryan Yarbrough’s 80.3 mph in 2021, according to Statcast data.

For now, Suárez has made drawing weak contact an art.



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(Photo of Alec Bohm: Denis Poroy / Getty Images)

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