Aaron Altherr may be only 23-years-old, but he’s already amassed five years of professional experience, albeit in the minor leagues. In somewhat prototypical fashion these days, Altherr stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 190-pounds. He bats from the right side and has the athleticism to play any of the three outfield positions, though the majority of his time professionally has been spent in center field with left field coming in at a close second. Altherr, a 9th round selection of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 Amateur Draft, opted to sign a professional contract out of high school, foregoing any type of collegiate career and the associated experience and transition between high school and professional ball. In hindsight, this may not have been the best decision for Altherr, who has struggled advancing beyond the High A levels until recently. He’s set to begin the 2014 season at AA Reading in what will be a defining season for the young prospect.
Offensively, in his five professional seasons spread across Rookie League and High A ball, Altherr has a career triple slash of .260/.318/.396 with 28 home runs. Most recently, the Arizona native played for High A Clearwater in 2013 after two seasons spent with Lakewood of the South Atlantic League. In Clearwater, Altherr had made several improvements, most notably to his power numbers, entering into double-digit home run territory (12) and elevating his slugging percentage by nearly 200 points from his 2011 campaign. That trend will need to continue over the next season or two before the kid will be thought of as a guy who has a chance to see some big league action.
There is one glaring negative about Altherr’s offensive capabilities — he strikes out too much. He struck out 140 times in 466 at-bats in 2013 and 102 times in 420 at-bats in 2012. His pitch selection at the dish and strike zone understanding will need to undergo substantial renovations in order to be competitive at the AA level and beyond. Aside from that, the positive attributes outshine the negative ones.
Defensively, he’s a pretty solid guy, posting a career fielding percentage of .984, committing only fifteen errors in 405 games. Out of fairness, most of the errors that plagued Altherr came earlier in his career. As of late, his assists have increased substantially from eight in 2012 to 17 in 2013, a sure sign he’s beginning to become more comfortable and confident as he matures.
Don’t be fooled by the Phillies’ recent move to place Aaron Altherr on the 40-man roster. It was strictly an administrative move in order to protect him from selection in the Rule 5 draft. He will not see any action with the Phillies this year, but if he starts the season on a rampage at AA, expect for him to be elevated quickly to AAA to finish the season. This could pave his way to make the team out of Spring Training in 2015 as a best case scenario.
Vinny Gala is a baseball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @VinnyGala.