2016 Phillies Report Card: Aaron Altherr
Aaron Altherr was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in August 2015 to replace Maikel Franco, who had his wrist broken by a Jeremy Hellickson fastball a week prior. This was not his MLB debut, as he’d taken 6 trips to the plate in 2014, but for all intents and purposes, this was the first glimpse of Altherr Phillies fans got. And he did not disappoint.
Despite a 25.5% K-rate, Altherr powered himself to a 125 wRC+ over 161 plate appearances on the strength of a .248 ISO. That, along with above-average outfield defense and baserunning, earned him 1.8 WAR, or about what you could expect an average major leaguer to produce in a full season. Altherr did that in a quarter of a season. He also did this.
To say expectations were high is an understatement, but Altherr’s 2016 season was derailed before it really began, when he tore a ligament in his wrist. By the time he returned, it was nearly August, and it was clear Altherr was not the same player as 2015. He hit just .202 with only 10 extra-base hits and a 30.4% K-rate in about 200 PAs.
I could cut off this report card on his season now and give him an arbitrarily bad grade, like a D- or something. The only thing saving him from F-hood is the wrist injury. Was he fully healthy when he returned from injury? If so, how much of his improvement with the bat can we expect to stick if he’s fully healthy next year? These are the questions that are more concerning to the Phillies’ future.
And really, I don’t have any way to answer those questions. I don’t really think the Phillies or Altherr do either. So that’s why I’d advocate for a starting job for a player coming of a season where he had a 64 wRC+. I’m admittedly a prospect optimist, even after watching dozens of prospects with bright futures fail to stick in the Majors for any number of reasons, not the least of which injury. I guess that’s why I don’t work in the Phillies front office and why I’m a card-carrying Process-Truster.
The Phillies outfield is looking a little crowded with Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, Altherr, Howie Kendrick, Tyler Goeddel, and sometime soon Nick Williams. But I think the Phillies would be foolish to ignore his stellar 2014 and focus on his injury-shortened 2015. Give the kid a chance.
Grade: Something arbitrarily bad, like a D- or whatever.