Altherr Should be in the Phillies Outfield

Aaron Altherr has always seemed just on the fringe of being a really good baseball player. This season, he's accomplished much of what he wanted to accomplish with a stronger approach to the game and strong, consistent at-bats. With the rebuild officially under way in Philadelphia, why not see what he's got?

There's no denying that Aaron Altherr has made not just himself better this season, but has also made the Lehigh Valley IronPigs better this season. The 24-year old outfield prospect was hitting a combined .240 (85-354) at Clearwater and Reading at this point last season. Coming into Wednesday night's game, Altherr was batting a combined .298 (107-359) with Reading and Lehigh Valley in 2015. He's also upped his home runs from eight to 12 and his RBI totals from 38 to 58. He's also got 14 steals this season, edging out his total from all of last year when he stole 13 bases.

The IronPigs weren't a very good team when Altherr arrived on June 23 and were just 27-45 on the season. Since his arrival, Lehigh Valley is 20-13, with Altherr making his mark in the International League. Looking at the league stats since he arrived, Altherr is at the top of the league in RBI with 29 and fourth in runs scored with 23. Altherr has hit safely in 27 of the 33 Triple-A games that he's played, batting .308 with six home runs and he has yet to go hitless in back-to-back games. He's also on a current streak that has seen him drive in at least one run in seven of the last nine games for Lehigh Valley.

While he sees differences between Double-A and Triple-A, obviously, the changes haven't affected Altherr very much.

"The pitchers have a little more command, especially with the off-speed pitches," stressed Altherr. "A lot of them can throw sliders or change-ups for strikes whenever they want, so it's definitely a lot tougher. You've just got to zone in on one pitch and you can't miss it."

A year ago, those changes would have had him second-thinking himself, but this season, he's been able to roll with the punches thanks to a new mental approach at the plate. In fact, Altherr insists that he hasn't changed anything mechanically and that the only thing different is how he approaches the game. Last year at this time, Altherr would have a bad game, or even a bad at-bat, and let it affect his thinking. He's be stepping to the plate still thinking about his last at-bat. Now, he's happy to take things as they come and only looks back when there's something to be learned from what he did. Other than that, it's just full-speed ahead.

"I've definitely grown as a ballplayer. I think the time in Venezuela for winter ball definitely helped me a lot. I just hope to keep getting better and better and turn into a complete major league player," he explained. "That's more a part of the mental approach that I've gained, not letting at-bats or taking pitches that I should have hit that I've taken for a strike or something get to me. Just to stay even keeled and just take it one at-bat at a time."

Altherr has also become a clutch hitter for Lehigh Valley this season, hitting five of his six home runs in spots to either tie the game or put Lehigh Valley ahead. Again, the change has been in Altherr's mental approach in those situations.

"I try not to think about it or let it get to me at all. I just try to keep my same approach no matter what the situation is; sometimes, I'm successful and sometimes, I'm not. I just try to not let the moment get to me and just try to continue to keep the same approach and put a good swing on the ball," said Altherr.

Altherr is a guy that doesn't look to do too much at the plate. He's willing to use all fields, as the following spray chart shows.

Going back to his time at Reading, Altherr has now hit safely in 36 of his last 42 games, batting .323 (55-170).

Not only is Altherr performing at the plate, but he's been strong defensively and has the skill to play any of the three outfield spots. Altherr feels comfortable in all three spots, but admits that center field is his favorite of the three spots. Altherr has seven outfield assists this season and hasn't made an error since last June 27th. Defensively, he's probably ready to play in the majors and probably isn't too far away from being ready offensively.

"That's what you play for, to try to get the call-up and hopefully, be able to produce up in the big leagues. Hopefully, I can just keep doing what I'm doing and get up there," said Altherr. "I try not to think about it really, because it's not in my control. I just do what I can do down here and keep being consistent and whatever happens up there happens and if I get the call, I'll be ready to go and try to help the team win up there."

So with the Phillies looking to retool, it would make sense to have Altherr playing at the major league level. He can play all three outfield spots well and should be able to make adjustments that would allow him to hold his own offensively. Technically, Ben Revere is still on the trading block and could be gone before the end of the week. Domonic Brown simply isn't hitting and his offensive woes really go back two seasons now after a strong first-half to the 2013 season.

If Revere is dealt, there would be a very obvious opening for Altherr in Philadelphia as another option in center field. He could also platoon with either Cody Asche in left field or with Brown in right. The time in the majors would give Altherr a chance to work out the nerves that he admits he had during his two very short stints with the team last year and provide on-the-job training for him at the major league level as the Phillies evaluate just what sort of prospect they have in Altherr.

Moving Altherr out of Lehigh Valley would open a roster spot at the Triple-A level for either Kelly Dugan or Cam Perkins, both of whom have done about all they can do at the Double-A level and deserve a move up the ladder.

It will be interesting to see if Revere is dealt and to keep an eye on Altherr to see if the Phillies find a way to get him back to the majors for more than a quick sip of coffee. Even if Revere isn't dealt, Altherr offers a better look at the future than Brown, and possibly even more than what Asche gives them, because of Altherr's versatility.

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