The Phillies are in a state of flux regarding their outfielders and there will be likely be numerous roster moves made in late May or early June. Dominic Brown could return to the outfield with the Phillies, along with Cody Asche sliding into left field and Ben Revere starting in center. The moves will also clear up space in Lehigh Valley with the Ironpigs, giving Aaron Altherr and opportunity to become a starter in AAA, a level he has not yet reached in his minor league career.
Altherr, 24, was selected by the Phillies in the 9th round of the 2009 draft. He is not a premier prospect in Philadelphia’s system, but he could become a reliable bench option in the major leagues. He can play every position in the outfield and for the first time in his minor league career, Altherr is beginning to walk at a solid rate and reduce his strikeouts. His projected position is a corner outfielder.
He’ll likely never become a regular starter at the major league level, but there is still reason for optimism. Altherr is a prototypical Phillies high school draft selection, not to go too deep into any drafting narratives, but has yet until this season to show significant improvement and numbers at the plate. His defense should earn him significant opportunities to find a home at spring training over the next few seasons, but if his bat can develop he could find himself on a major league roster.
Altherr sits in the box with his hands near his head and has somewhat of a long swing, which has led to some of his large strikeout rates over his minor league career. He often struggles to make strong contract on pitches on the inner half of the plate. He’s not a burner on the bases, but has swiped over ten bases a year over the past few seasons in the minors.
Players with his height and physique often face a tough decision of whether to stay at their size or add muscle in hopes of gaining additional power. Altherr’s bat speed is extremely unlikely to improve much and you’re looking at a player who hopefully projects as a 10-15 homerun guy in the majors if he reaches his full potential.
The most important part of Altherr’s 2015 season has his been his ability at the plate to decipher strikes and balls along with a more calm approach. The lanky outfielder has walked 13 times compared to 16 strikeouts, just a 15.8% strikeout rate. His isolated power has also reached a career high .239 and his slugging percentage is also currently at a career high rate (.523).
Unlike recent past seasons, Altherr is beginning to mash on left handed pitching, which makes him far more attractive as a major league player. While unlikely to become a starter on a competitive roster, he could be a platoon option if he continues to hit well against lefties. Altherr has posted a 1.285 OPS in 24 at bats against lefties this season, including two homers, four doubles and a triple. He also has six walks along with just three strikeouts.
Altherr’s start to the 2015 season is extremely encouraging and there is still some time to become a major league player. If he continues his strong start in Reading there’s no reason he shouldn’t earn a promotion to Lehigh Valley in the near future, a September call up to the majors isn’t out of the question either.