By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Single-A Lakewood BlueClaws have a very intriguing group of position player prospects this season. One of the most talented players on that roster is 21-year-old outfielder Aaron Altherr.
The 6-5, right-handed hitter was a 9th-round draft pick of the Phillies in 2009 out of Agua Fria High School in Avondale, Arizona.
Here in 2012, Altherr is batting .252 with six home runs and 43 RBI. In the season’s second half, he’s hitting .303 in 24 games.
“I feel my swing coming along, I’m starting to square the ball up more consistently,” Altherr says. “The power is starting to come. I’m feeling pretty good.”
Altherr actually made it up to Lakewood last season, but after some struggles he was sent back down a notch on the organizational ladder to Williamsport.
“I was definitely disappointed at first,” Altherr says. “But I know what they are doing here in the organization so I trust them and I just made the most out of the situation and did the best I can with going down to Williamsport.”
Altherr’s performance earned him the return trip to the BlueClaws this season and
Lakewood manager Mickey Morandini says he is making a lot of progress with the bat, but adds there are still areas he can get even better.
Video: Aaron Altherr single to right:
“Cut down a little bit on the strikeouts (83 this season in 382 plate appearances),” says Morandini. “Shoot the ball the other way a little bit more consistently and he will be right on schedule to climb the ladder here in the system.”
Hitting is just one aspect of Altherr’s all around game that has plus potential. On the bases he is a legitimate threat. This season he has 25 steals in 31 attempts for the BlueClaws and he says as the competition gets better, swiping bags becomes less about speed and more about strategy.
“Once you get higher up it’s definitely knowing when to go. Picking good counts to go on because you can have all the speed in the world, but if you pick bad counts, you’re always going to get thrown out.”
Defensively, Altherr has played all three outfield positions this season and Morandini says he is very good with the glove.
“One of the best defensive outfielders in the system. His arm strength is getting much better. Very accurate with his throwing.”
So is there one outfield position that he projects to eventually settle into?
“I don’t know if we really know yet,” Morandini says. “I think it’s going to depend on his bat, mainly. But he can play all three as well as anybody in the system. He goes and gets them, gets great jumps, great routes, gets to the ball fast. So I’m not sure we know exactly where he’s going to fit out in the outfield. But either way, he’s going to be very good defensively no matter what position he plays.”
While it is still a long way to Citizens Bank Park, Altherr says he is enjoying the road he is traveling.
“Of course. You have to love baseball in order to play. Gotta love it.”
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