The League Top 20s come to an end with the strongest AAA list I have ever seen come out. The only players on the list to not play in the majors were Jose Berrios, Robert Stephenson, and Josh Bell. Overall the #1 player on the list should win the AL Rookie of the year and at least half a dozen players should settle in as at least above average regulars for the respective clubs. Among the Phillies who came through Lehigh Valley this year, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff did not qualify (Nola certainly would have made it, unlikely for Eickhoff). The two players who did make it for the Phillies could be solid parts of the future of the rebuild.
3. Maikel Franco (3B)
Maikel Franco looked like a mess last fall in his major league debut and didn’t look much better this spring before the Phillies sent him down to AAA. As I wrote about early in the season, something clicked for Franco in early May and he began to be a bit more selective at the plate while using the full field. The new approach carried into the majors where he posted his best walk rate since 2011 while hitting 14 home runs and putting up a very solid .280/.343/.497 line in 335 PAs. Franco is never going to post Joey Votto walk rates, but if he can keep the walk rate in the 7-8% range while keeping his strikeout rate under 16-17% he is going to be just fine. The power in Franco’s swing is clearly evident and he has improved on cutting down and going the other way late in accounts and his quality of contact has improved. In the field he is never going to be a gold glover, but if he can clean up some simple errors and fix his positioning some, he is going to be just fine there. He is the Phillies long term answer at third base and will hit in the middle of their lineup for a long time.
19. Aaron Altherr (OF)
No player in the Phillies system made a more noticable improvement than Aaron Altherr. The first thing anyone says about him is that he is an athlete, and for the first time in his career that showed up in how he played the game. His swing was simpler and his approach was greatly improved allowing him to tap into his raw tools. He has above average to plus raw power, but it plays more to average because his swing generates more line drives than towering fly balls (though with his long limbs he can get plenty of leverage on low pitches). The line drive swing allows him to pepper the gaps with doubles and Altherr hit 43 doubles in 150 games in 2015 to go along with 9 triples and 19 home runs. In the field Altherr is an above average defender in center field (a position he is blocked at by Odubel Herrera) but is a spectacular defender in both corners. There is some swing and miss in his swing and major league arms were able to exploit it more than minor leagues, but Altherr works deep counts so there is some hope that he will continue to make adjustments. Despite putting up 1.7 fWAR in 39 major league games, it is difficult to write Altherr’s name in as a long term answer for the Phillies, but there are positive signs that continued growth could make him a future fixture for the Phillies
Photo by Cheryl Purcell