Crash Landing: Fighting Pessimism, Looking Forward to Altherr’s Return

I have this habit of defaulting to extreme pessimism for injured players. It’s a deep-seated tendency due both to the innate pessimism derived from my upbringing in the world of Philadelphia sports as well as a learned habit from the recent pain of watching catastrophic injuries dramatically derail the careers of guys like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and, to a perhaps lesser extent, Chase Utley. With each of those injuries, there were initial hopes and recovery timelines to cling to but, in the end, the injuries deprived us from the enjoyment of watching greatness. It’s for this reason, that I’ve spent a lot of this season overlooking Aaron Altherr and I (extremely cautiously) think it’s time for me to stop.

Prior to the start of the season, the outfield was one of the more intriguing storylines for the Phillies. Altherr and Odubel Herrera were to get everyday roles while Peter Bourjos, Cody Asche, and Tyler Goeddel covered the final spot until such a time that Nick Williams could be called up. It was exciting! Altherr and Herrera both showed a great deal of promise in their rookie seasons, but there were also many questions remaining about their games and this was the year to get answers to those questions. While the great plan has certainly worked out for All-Star Odubel Herrera, it didn’t even get off the ground for Altherr.

In the first week of spring training, he made a dive that looked completely harmless.  It was a fantastic diving effort that came up just short and Altherr didn’t even flinch at the moment the injury occurred.

As you know, he was diagnosed with a torn sheath tendon in his wrist after making that play. I may not know what a sheath tendon is, but I do know that wrist injuries are less than ideal. Altherr’s injury diagnosis was accompanied by a trip to the surgeon’s table and a four-to-six month timetable for his return. Given the delicate nature of wrist injuries for position players (and my aforementioned pessimism), I mentally disregarded the “four” part of that timetable and did the sad calculations to realize that a six month absence would keep Altherr out until September. Now, he’s showing me I shouldn’t have been so hasty. Instead of this being an essentially lost season for Altherr, he is nearly ready to return to a major league field.

He began his rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast Phillies back on July 8th. Rehab assignments for position players last no longer than twenty days, which means that his rehab assignment will be finished on July 27th at the absolute latest. Assuming the Phillies don’t wish to burn Altherr’s final option year, it’s logical to conclude that he’ll join the team in Atlanta a week from today, if not sooner.

So far his rehab assignment has been going as well as could be hoped. Through 32 plate appearances between the rookie-league GCL Phillies and High-A Clearwater Threshers, Altherr is batting .375/.531/.542. Demonstrating an ability to beat up on recent high school draftees is hardly definitive proof that Altherr is “back” in a meaningful way, but he’ll begin to get tested in a more legitimate fashion when he joins Double-A Reading tonight.

It’s getting increasingly easy to envision a scenario in which the Phillies regular starting lineup over the final two months of the season includes an outfield of Williams-Herrera-Altherr and that’s genuinely exciting. Of course, I’m still carrying around pessimism. I worry about whether or not Altherr’s power will return so soon after a wrist injury. I worry about reinjury. Basically, I worry. But what matters is that answers are coming and coming soon. Jimmy Paredes‘ time with the big club is likely nearing a completion. Bourjos may soon be gone via trade. These openings will present opportunities to watch outfielders who could be in Philadelphia for a long time to come and that’s more than enough to get me to forget my worries and tune in for the second half of this season.

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18 comments

  1. Romus

    July 21, 2016 02:55 PM

    Hope he decides to wear a protective wrist guard from here on out and prevent a reoccurrence, similar to what Jayson Werth did for a long time after his return.

  2. Eddie

    July 21, 2016 10:16 PM

    Worrying is a pointless waste of time and energy.

    I avoid that by just being deeply pessimistic and assuming the worst will happen.

  3. Pete

    July 22, 2016 12:29 AM

    After Paredes, I’d hope Asche would be the next to go. Is a trade possible for him? I’d prefer to keep Bourjos a little while longer.

    • bob

      July 23, 2016 04:33 PM

      totally agree. Asche sucks.

      • boomerbubba

        July 24, 2016 12:11 AM

        Asche, another fantastic prospect brought to you by the Phillies’ ownership. Until ownership changes, expect more “promising” story lines of other up and coming bums and stiffs, and even more losses, bad draft picks and a minor league system that can’t teach players the basics. Plus, they tend to let decent players go. See if they bother to keep Hererra.

      • steve

        July 24, 2016 05:44 AM

        While i dont totally disagree with your assessment of the past, im not sure how you can put the Klentak era in that category. There is morw ralent and depth in the minors than i can ever remember. Nola, VV, Eickhof, Eflin, Franco, and Herrera all look the part of every day major leaguers so far. I expect JPC or Williams or both to get a chance this season. By Sept 30 you could be looking the entire roation and half the lineup consisting of players tht figure to impact the future of the organization. Now if Nola can just get things figured out id feel a lot better.

  4. Dante

    July 22, 2016 08:51 AM

    Quick off-topic question: I always thought the phrase was “deep-seeded” not “deep-seated”. The idea is you’re referring to something deeply ingrained and tough to remove. I’m not sure how that corresponds to sitting in a deep seat, or deeply sitting in a seat, or whatever.

    Anyway, two points from me, Corinne. First, what resource do you use to find out number or remaining options for players? Second, I’m not so sure Williams gets called up before September – he is striking out at a sky high level now, and he seems like a player who might get overmatched early and struggle to adapt. September would be ideal as the caliber of competition drops a bit and there is less pressure to play him everyday, which could help ease him into the fold.

      • Dante

        July 22, 2016 09:13 AM

        Thanks. It appears lots of folks use it the way I have, so I feel a little better about myself today.

    • Corinne Landrey

      July 22, 2016 11:36 AM

      Dante, on the options question, I wish there was a great resource out there. Players generally get three option years and RosterResource.com will show if a player is out of options. Given that the site shows Altherr isn’t yet out of options and the fact that he was optioned in both 2014 and 2015, it follows that he only has one left. Figuring it out long-hand is messy and not always accurate, but it’s the best way I know.

      As for Williams, I’d hardly call a 23.5% strikeout-rate sky-high in this environment. Regardless, it’s dropped precipitously as the season has progressed. If neither Asche nor Bourjos are moved, then I agree we may not see him until September. However, as soon as one of them is dealt, I think they’d be silly not to call him up.

      • boomerbubba

        July 24, 2016 12:14 AM

        We’ve got the best strikeout teacher still in the dugout.
        His name is Ryan “steeeeeerike threeeee!” Howard.

  5. Michael C Lorah

    July 22, 2016 09:16 AM

    While Dante’s point about strikeouts has some merit, if they find a taker for Bourjos before Altherr’s rehab ends, I suspect Aaron is called up immediately. Bourjos is the only outfielder with even minimal trade value, so he’s the most likely to go. If Bourjos hangs around, I can see Altherr taking the final option until September. I suspect Bourjos will be flipped though.

    Asche won’t get much more than a low-level lottery pick, which is fine – I’d roll the dice, personally, but the team could understandably prefer a cheap corner option until we see what we have in Altherr and Williams.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Phils hold onto Paredes (until Williams comes up), only because they’ll want Aaron to play nearly every day and Paredes is the deep man on the bench. Herrera’s clearly every day, so you’d have Altherr sharing time with Bourjos and Asche at the corners, with Goeddel getting into the mix as well.

    • Romus

      July 22, 2016 09:55 AM

      MCL… I .can see Asche included in a package of sorts with one of the pitchers who could go. Just not sure if it will make much difference in the caliber of value level of prospect in the return.

      • edwin

        July 23, 2016 04:35 PM

        Asche would probably bring down the value of the trade. They should just dfa him and o everyone a favor.

    • Dante

      July 22, 2016 10:37 AM

      I’m trying to think of a team that could actually use Asche at the big league level, not just a depth, insurance piece. The Giants have come out and said they are not looking for a “contact” reliever, but a big armed guy, so Jeanmar is out of that conversation now. I think more teams could use Bourjos, since he’s a more versatile and gifted OFer and has been hitting about equally to Asche lately, though I think Asche has a higher floor at the plate.

      • boomerbubba

        July 24, 2016 12:17 AM

        Any trade the Phils make, you watch, will involve the Phils trading away their best talent in exchange for “promising” dud prospects and oft-injured stiffs.

      • Romus

        July 24, 2016 08:13 AM

        Asche thru his 26age season compares to Greg Dobbs thru his 26age season in the majors, be it Dobbs with a lot less PAs at that point.
        Asche would be wise to learn to play a little first base also during the off-season…his calling card would appear to be a depth player with some versatility going forward..

      • Ed

        July 24, 2016 11:56 AM

        Well not sure that matters. Basically I really like the guy. He had a lot of heart but let’s be realistic. He has absolutely no glove leather. He was blessed with brick hands and a fairly low baseball IQ. How many times has he missed the cutoff man tying to nail someone at home? Or, how many times has swung first pitch when he needs to work the count to build up the opposing pitcher’s pitch count? He just have it man. 1st base is just another position he’ll never know how to play.

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