Aaron Altherr: Can he be the real deal?

Photo by: Keith Allison

His name may not make the headlines after the Seattle Mariners’ capped off a two-game series by trouncing the Philadelphia Phillies 11-6, but Aaron Altherr’s two-home-run outing was a high point in the outfielder’s narrative for this young season.

The papers will say the day belonged to Mariners catcher Carlos Ruiz, who led the way with four RBI in his Philadelphia homecoming. The longtime Phillie was a beloved part of the club’s 2008 championship team and was dealt away last year as the team completed the long-overdue dismantling of that World Series roster.

Wednesday afternoon Aaron Altherr made a strong bid to be a part of the next championship core for Philadelphia, slugging his third three-run home-run in as many days and a solo shot in the ninth inning as the Phillies failed to rally. The club’s hottest hitter made good after manager Pete Mackanin moved him into the 3-hole for the day game.

The rangy outfielder burst onto the scene in the waning days of the 2015 season with a barrage of extra-base hits, but a wrist injury cost him most of last season and limited him when he was finally able to return to everyday action.

Through 70 at bats this season Altherr is hitting .351 with seven home runs and a 1.179 OPS. Four of those seven home runs have come during the last three days however, and it’s not unfair for Phillies fans to take the fatalistic view on this one; they’ve been burnt before.

Altherr is product of a bygone Phillies draft strategy of taking raw athletes and hoping to polish their baseball skills as they go, Domonic Brown will be forever infamous in Philly for his one month of hall-of-fame production and subsequent flameout. Others, notably Anthony Hewitt, never made it out of the minors. Now Altherr, a little over a month into his third MLB season has a chance to be the only successful implementation of that strategy.

It’s easy to look at the outfielder as a litmus test for how optimistic the viewer is. Glass-half-full observers will look at Altherr’s recent production, his track record of improving with each year in pro-baseball and his 6’5″ frame and see reason for optimism, even celebration, but baseball is full of one-month wonders and Altherr’s career .237 average and high strikeout rate beg the question whether the 26-year-old’s success is sustainable.

It’s impossible to know at this point where Altherr’s career arc will take him, but what is certain is that the outfielder will get ample chance to prove himself on a Philadelphia team struggling to find its identity and a potential championship core.

Whether he’ll be remembered as a hero and champion like Carlos Ruiz or a footnote, like Dom Brown, has yet to be written.