I am sure everyone wishes that Aaron Altherr would make his major league debut under happier circumstances. Howver, with the passing of Tony Gwynn, tyhe Phillies have placed Tony Gwynn Jr. on the bereavment list. Altherr has the distinction of being the only healhthy coutfielder on the roste, Kelly Dugan and Zach Collier are still on the DL and Tyson Gillies was removed from the 40 man roster recently. The other two names were Leandro Castro and Cameron Perkins, neither his on the 40 man rster and neither cshould be a primary centerfielder.
As for Altherr, he has been the latest in a line of toolsy outfielders for the Phillies. He was drafted in the 9th round of the 2009 draft, and at one point the Phillies attempted to make him a third baseman. Altherr’s athleticism has shown up more on the defensive side of the ball and less on the offensive potential. On defense Altherr is a good centerfielder who glides to the ball with plus speed, when underway, he pairs that with a strong throwing arm.
At the plate, the raw pieces are there for Altherr to be a solid offensive contributor. The swing has some length due to the size, but his bat is quick enough to handle most fastballs. The swing provides good leverage, and he is starting to tap into plus raw power, though he has been slowed by offseason wrist surgery on a broken bone. His approach is improving, but he still has a fairly high strikeout rate. After a slow start to the year (he missed all of spring training), he has hit .393/.446/.588 in June, but sports a .245/.293/.373 line on the year for the Fightin Phils.
Overall Altherr is still at least a year off of being a usable major league player, the promotion is more due to circumstances than merit. In the major leagues expect Altherr to be the last OF on the bench, though he could be used as a pinch runner if needed. His major league stay should be brief before returning to Reading.
Long term, Altherr could be a major league regular in center field if he can continue to tap into the power while staying in centerfield. More likely, he will grow too big for centerfield and will lack the complete outfield package for a corner and fall into the tweener profile. He still should be a good second division regular or solid 4th outfielder on a good team.
On a sad note I would like to extend my condolences to the Gwynn family. Cancer can take those that we love way too soon, and regardless of Tony Gwynn’s baseball accomplishments it is always sad to see someone pass away before their time.