Pete Mackanin couldn’t help but be intrigued by the numbers posted by Aaron Altherr, who was a late 2015 call-up. The athletic Altherr, envision a young, healthy Jayson Werth, had 20 extra-base hits in just 137 at bats after he arrived in mid-August.
The long, lanky and fleet outfielder, who was drafted in the ninth round in 2009 also had a .936 OPS in 103 at-bats against righthanded pitchers. It’s a small sample set but Mackanin like many pundits believes the athletic Altherr can make an impact in the outfield.
Mackanin indicated that his starting outfield for the 2016 season could be Peter Bourjos, who is a great fielder with plenty of range, in center. Odubel Herrera, who he dubbed a “perennial .300 hitter,” in left and Altherr in right.
Altherr, who turned 25 last week (Jan. 14), believes he’s ready to take that next step.
“I’ve been working hard in the off-season and I just want to get better,” Altherr said. “I worked hard after the first time I was up here to improve on things.”
The biggest difference between Altherr circa 2014 and last season is that he cut down his strikeouts and upped his walk total.
After walking in 5.3 percent of his plate appearances and striking out 22.5 percent of his PAs at Double A in 2014, Altherr upped his walk percentage to 9.2 and struck out 19.2 percent of the time in Triple A.
“The name of the game is getting on base,” Altherr said. “I want to get on.”
But Altherr also has quite a bit of pop, which he displayed last season.
“Aaron is a really good ballplayer,” catcher Cameron Rupp said. “I know he wasn’t up long last season but he showed what he could do when he got here. He flies around the bases and he covers a lot of ground out there in the outfield. I can see why he would start next season.”
However, John Mayberry impressed during a late season run with the Phillies in 2010 but has fizzled since proving that he’s not a starting major league outfielder.
“I don’t worry about what anyone else has done or hasn’t done,” Altherr said. “I have a lot of work to do. I have to play to the best of my ability in spring training to try to earn a job with this team. I’m going to do whatever I can to help.”