After breakout 2023, Stott sets sights on hitting .300

March 7th, 2024

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Phillies principal owner John Middleton discussed the future on Monday, and he mentioned .

The Phillies have spent the past few years acquiring and retaining star players like Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, JT Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. Middleton was asked if it is possible to keep acquiring stars. Sure, he said, if it becomes a necessity. But he quickly added that it is best if they develop their own.

“Stott, I think, already is a star,” Middleton said. “He’s a finalist for the Gold Glove. He should be an All-Star, in my opinion, this year. He could be winning the Gold Glove. That’s what you need.”

Middleton isn’t the only one who thinks Stott could have a breakout 2024. Stott, 26, is already one of the game’s best defensive second basemen. He took steps forward offensively in his first full year in 2023, slashing .280/.329/.419 with 15 home runs, 62 RBIs, a .747 OPS, while tying Wheeler with a team-high 4.3 bWAR.

It’s easy to see Stott’s swing and speed and see somebody who could hit .300. In fact, he hit .302 with a .791 OPS through Aug. 11, before struggling down the stretch.

“That’s the gold standard of baseball,” Stott said before Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. “Everybody’s goal is to hit .300. I was there. I had a bad month. It goes away fast. You go down faster than you go up. I think something that gets lost in baseball is that your MVP has three-and-a-half, four good months in a [six]-month season. He’s your MVP. The bad months happen. It’s just how fast and how well you can control those bad months. Whether that’s maybe taking an extra walk instead of chasing a pitch, or laying down a bunt … but I think I was right there last year.”

Stott is working on a few things that he hopes will help him during the season. He is trying to chase less. He is trying to be more aggressive early in the count. He is trying to stick with a plan throughout his entire at-bat.

It isn’t easy.

“I’m striking out looking a little more than usual,” he said. “It’s seeing those borderline pitches that could go either way. Some have been balls. Some have been strikes. And also trying to sit on a certain pitch the whole at-bat, instead of saying I’m going to do it and then getting out of it after the first pitch.”

For example, Stott might have stepped into the batter’s box planning to sit on a pitch middle-in. The first pitch would be outside, so Stott scrapped the plan and got ready to hit a pitch away. Of course, the pitcher threw middle-in, but he missed because he got off it.

“It’s hard for me,” Stott said. “I’ll sit on a slider and a slider could bounce onto the grass and I’ll swing at it because I’m sitting on it and I see it. Just trying to stay with a certain pitch the whole at-bat. Now is the time to do it. [Hitting coach Kevin Long] said now is the time to do it. It’s Spring Training. You can always revert back to the old ways where you just see it and hit it. But I feel like my chase rate is way down this spring.”

Stott swung at pitches outside the zone 29.5 percent of the time last season, which ranked in the bottom half of batters. Entering Thursday, he swung at only four of the 31 (12.9 percent) tracked pitches he had seen outside the zone.

It is a small sample size, but it is something.

“I’m just kind of seeing,” he said. “I feel like the more you take those, the more an umpire thinks you have a better understanding of the strike zone and you might get a couple more pitches. So I’ll stick with it in the spring and see how it goes.”

Stott laughed, because he knows everything changes once the season starts.

“It looks a lot easier than it is,” Stott said.