Aaron Altherr to give third base a try

A source gave me the heads up a few weeks ago that the Phillies had given Aaron Altherr a few looks at 3B this winter, and now that Keith Law brought up the fact in his article today, I suppose its news fit for public consumption. I was told that he spent some time working out with Eric Chavez this winter, as they share the same agent….Altherr and Chavez, not Keith Law and Chavez. Early reports were positive, and it appears that his performance this spring will determine whether or not the Phillies go forward with the experiment. Altherr was a shortstop in high school, so the move to 3B is not really a huge stretch, certainly not as difficult as trying to become a catcher, or learning how to perfect the double play turn up the middle. Third base, in essence, is a reaction position, so it will come down to his footwork and instincts. This will be one of the more interesting story lines to follow in spring training.

77 thoughts on “Aaron Altherr to give third base a try

  1. Good news, need some right handed bats, and Altherr’s potential is looking very valuable if this conversion sticks

  2. Yeah very interesting news, especially considering the derth of 3B prospects in the phils system. And the abundance of OF prospects for that matter

  3. Very interesting. His arm won’t be problem, so he has that going for him.

    Not that I am in anyway advocating trading him, but this would raise his stock a good amount.

  4. *cough*

    What the hell? We took a SS and made him a 3B. We’re going to need two very good players at 3B and SS in the future, and as far as I know, the best SS in our system is marginal. So what did we gain here? Isn’t it easier to find a good hitting 3B than a good hitting SS? (Assuming defense is solid.)

    1. David Wright was a SS in HS
      Evan Longoria was a SS in HS
      Ryan Zimmerman was a SS in HS
      Alex Rodriguez was a SS in HS
      Mike Schmidt was a SS…

  5. Wonder what the thinking was. Most likely his SS experience and arm. He might not be the classic 3B slugger, buthopefully a guy who can hit.280, .340 OBP, 15 HR, 20 SB, that kind of guy. That lack of slugger potential and his sleekness and speed make this a curious move to me.

    1. 3B doesn’t typically require as big a bat as LF. I don’t think Altherr was expected to be able to play CF in the majors, so moving to 3B is a move up the defensive ladder.

  6. Would be great if he can remain there. I was wishfully hoping that Dugan would get 3B reps at Lakewood since he was a 1B in high school but moved to CF as a pro.

    I like the Hewitt reference as it appears that Altherr will be taking that role in the Phils system. I like that the Phils are challenging the position value of their prospects. As long as it does not affect their critical hitting skills, trying prospects at higher value positions seems like a good idea to me. (Of course, Utley to 3B and Howard to LF did not work out but both players continued to hit well.)

    Singleton to corner OF and Altherr to 3B will hopefully go well as both are reasonable athletes but their arms will certainly be tested with these moves.

    It will certainly improve the love of Altherr on this site as a possible legitimate 3B prospect to follow Polanco.

  7. I’m skeptical. Its extremely rare to see a conversion from center field to third base. It’s far, far too early to start moving Altherr for some organizational need, so I don’t think that’s the cause. I just doubt it’ll work.

  8. Alan it is true that you don’t see CF to 3B often, but he does have experience at SS in HS, so its not that unprecedented. I’m optimistic, if cautiously so.

  9. There’s very little downside to this move unless the change in position is a distraction that bleeds into his hitting development. The uniqueness of baseball is you don’t have to shift from offense to defense in a split second like most other sports. You get to come off the field, have a drink of water, sit on the bench a spell, take some swings with the heavy bat in the on deck circle and clear your head for the upcoming AB.

    Give it a try and if it isn’t working, shift him back. He’s young and can adapt. It also tells Aaron that the Phils think highly of him and have created a path for him. If he succeeds his trip to the Majors could be shortened. GPS just found a shortcut. Let’s hope there isn’t a double semi pile up on the alternate route.

    1. Next time someone asks me why I love baseball so much, I will be sure to bring up that offense to defense comparison. Even in football there’s always the chance that a WR will be defending the ball on a ball throw, or that a lineman will need to make a tackle after a fumble and what have you. Baseball remains unique in our country’s popular team sports for this reason, for the lack of a clock, for the fact that every team, every game, is afforded the same number of tries.

      Now if only we had a salary cap and international players were subject to the draft. I know that’s blasphemy as a Phils fan, but I think it’s truth.

        1. I think MLB should tweak the fa compansation pick situation before a salary cap. Middle relievers who are type a guys don’t make much sense when some everyday players or sp’s are type b guys. I understand that there’s reason why depending on the skill of the player but I think they can make it better. Tb made it to the ws against the yanks and bosox and the marlins won the ws. Salary caps on drafts or international signings may work better in some way. Maybe on the big teams record???

        2. I agree Tampa did it right. Florida did it by buying a bunch of help and then selling it off, and suceeded a second time in part reaping the success of those prospects. And winning once a decade and having 8k people a night in the stands nine out of ten years is not a good business model, and all those lousy teams can’t be much fun for casual fans of the game. Not saying it can’t be done, and Minnesota is a prime example of putting a contending team out every day from a small market. It’s just very hard to do, and a cap and compensation pick reform and a better luxury tax system and on and on are all reasonable ways to improve the game. Now we just have to convince Bud Selig to do it without annoying the big market teams who pay the bulk of his salary.

        3. I hate the salary cap in the NBA. The NFL system is different because the players careers usually last a shorter amount of time than baseball players do, and there’s more injury risk. The mets prove by just spending money doesn’t mean the teams going to win. There’s plenty of mid market teams and some small market teams that can do well. I just think the small or mid market teams should be compensated more in draft picks or a change in the system some how. I think when teams like the yanks getting cc and texiera in the same year and the brewers only picking up a sandwitch pick and the yanks 2nd rounder isn’t fair compensation for losing a star player. The way the system works now the yanks could of went out and paid over slot on low round picks or went crazy on international signings. Small or mid market teams should get the opertunity to pick those talented players and develope them. Giving out huge contracts to players don’t gaurentee anything and it’s a huge risk (except fo the yanks). Changing the rules just to hurt one team doesn’t make sense to me. They should make it easier on the small and mid market teams to excell rather than hurt the big market teams. Imo.

        4. MLB doesn’t need a salary cap. The greatest benefit teams have in the NFL is that the contracts aren’t guaranteed.

          It doesn’t matter if you give a player an 8-year, $150M contract if it was possible to get out from under it in year 4-5 when the player goes into the tank.

          Where the big market teams in baseball have their advantange is that they can afford risk while small market teams cannot.

  10. I think if you’re looking for someone to compare him to there’s already an obvious choice on the Phillies at 3B and that’s Polacido Polanco. Polanco doesnt have 3B power, but he’s playing 3B for the Phillies and is a valuable right-handed bat in a very lefty dominated line-up. Polanco hit a grand total of 6 HR’s over 500+ games in the minors. So far Altherr has 3 HR’s in about 80 odd games.

    Their hitting positives seem to be fairly similar. Both are contact hitters who don’t strike out a lot, Altherr’s walk-rate is a bit higher at this point in his career than Polanco’s wise. If he can turn out anything like the hitter (and fielder) that Polanco is it wouldn’t matter that he won’t ever mash 20/25 HR’s at 3B.

    1. I don’t subscribe to that thinking 100%. There’s a reason positions have certain hitting expectations. The athletic positions require less power hitting because the body type of a SS, 2B, CF is on average less bulky andp owerful, with a few exceptions here and there.

      If you develop a sleeker, faster guy without much power at 3B, where you do not need broad athleticism, you create some risk. Right now, with Utley and Howard in the IF and Rollins able to supply some power also, you can afford a Polanco at 3B, where he fills a#2 hole nicely. Altherr may do that also on the right team, as you say. But in 2015, that may not be the case. What if Hernandez develops and plays 2B, we get a light hitting SS, plus Singleton at 1B is not hitting his stride yet. Then you carry a 10 HR guy at3B? Not an ideal situation.

      The situations where he would fit are not the norm.

      1. The guy is 6’5 190 lbs at 19 years old. Why the assumption that he won’t/can’t hit for power when he makes the majors 4 years from now?

        1. You’re right. He might do that. And it might be a good move. Just pointing out he might look more like a moderate power guy today. Just not the classic 3B type as I see him. Looks more like a CF. If Phils see quick reactions, good hands, a plus arm for 3B, and project some above avg offense, could pay off big.

        2. But if he sticks in the 10-15 HR range he looks like today (I have heard no reports of tape measure shots from him) and we lack power in other IF positions, that could wind up being a concern.

        3. DD, I honestly don’t know if the Phillies look at Altherr as their future 3B, or not. I doubt the Phillies are doing as much hand wringing about lowA 3b as minor league fans are. I think the move is just a way to get as many prospects At-bats as they can.
          Altherr may have been the only guy who looked like he could play a passable 3B in Instructional league (meaning Dugan can’t play the position).

  11. I’m always screaming the Phils have not a single prospect on the left side of the infield or second base for that matter. They rarely take a top prospect in the draft to fill their organizational needs nor sign a hot international player. Who was the last third baseman that amounted to anything that was a hot draft pick, Scott Rolen in 1993? Rollins and Utley were hot going into the draft and managed to be something in the Majors. No one else has done ANYTHING, Mike Costanzo couldnt cut it above AA. Any other SS & 2B cant hit the broad side of a barn.

    All & all give any one a chance to play 3b, SS or 2B that can hit and play solid defense.

  12. The Polly comp is a fairly close, though I think Alther projects to have a bit more power, and maybe a little more Ks.

  13. I think it is a no lose situation. He does well then here is our 3b prospect we have been dying for. If he struggles he goes back to the outfield and still remains a top prospect in our system.

  14. rose played third didnt he? no real power? but they had a power hitting second basemen to pick up his slack. point is if you have a third basemen who can hit for average and play the position, why cant you get power from a positon which doenst usually hit for power and make up for him.

    1. I have him at #15 on my list. If he actually plays at third and does good, he would definitely move into my top 10.

  15. Rolen may be the best comp to Altherr as a body type. Rolen was a very good basketball player in high school as was Altherr. This is interesting idea that someone had (and by the way, that someone might be Altherr himself) and is worth the experimentation.
    Rolen was not a big homer guy in the minors and grew into his bidy, maybe Altherr does too. If he has 3/4’s the career of Rolen he will become special. Rolen is teetering on the edge of HOF consideration.

    1. Tough to see Rolen as an HOFer. Only one Top 5 MVP finish and he’s only even been named on the ballot in four seasons. Probably won’t get to 400 homers. His similar players on baseball reference are guys like Fred Lynn and Paul O’Neill. Don’t get me wrong–if Altherr develops into a quarter of the plater Rolen was, the experiment worked, but Rolen would need a late career resurgence to merit any HOF consideration.

      1. Rolen had an All-Star, Gold Glove season last year. If he keeps this up for another three years, finishes up with 350+ home runs (and 8+ GGs), I think that’s a Hall of Famer.

        1. “nowhere close”

          Well that’s just wrong. I mean, I agree it isn’t a CLEAR case – by traditional evaluation standards he is probably just under the bar, and by modern analytical evaluation standards he is just above the bar. And given the historical bias against third basemen in HOF voting – to the extent that that anomoly indicates a de facto standard – I guess you might even downgrade his worthiness for the Hall a little below that.

          But saying he is “nowhere close” to HOF standards necessarily indicates either overestimation of HOF standards, or underestimation of his value. I’m going to mention WAR numbers, not because they are the be all and end all of all analysis, but because the are a good rough indicator of value and I don’t have time for a more in depth analysis. He is 11th all time among third basemen in WAR with 72, ahead of multiple HOFers.

        2. By the standards used by HOF voters, Rolen isn’t close. His “traditional” numbers are very comparible to Matt Williams, who hit more HRs, has almost 2000 hits, and over 1200 RBI AND also won multiple GG awards. Neither player was a league MVP,

          How many votes did Williams get for the HOF in 2009?

          Sorry but WAR isn’t used by HOF voters as a measure of a player. You can claim that’s because the members of the BBWAA are stuck in the past but it is the way it is.

          Besides, career WAR numbers are dubious since they are simply an accumulation of total years of play. Look at the active leaders and it just so happens that they are all players over 35 except for Pujols and A-Rod.

          Rolen’s greatest single season war was 9.2 which was 4th in the league that year. he’s been in the top-10 in the league just twice in 17 years. His career average is just 3.9

          He’s had a nice career but if he is a HOF player the bar has really been lowered.

        3. 3up3kkk, “WAR numbers are dubious since they are simply an accumulation of total years of play.” Don’t you think playing more years is better than playing fewer? How can you accumulate all those HRs and BBs and Hs and Rs without playing for a long time? Should we just look at individual year HRs and Hs and ignore lifetime totals?

          WAR is useful because it attempts to take in all aspects of a players’ game and quantify how much better they were than an average guy.

        4. Though we’re talking different eras, this is somewhat enlightening.

          Rolen: 284/369/498, 303 HRs
          Brett: 305/369/487, 317 HRs

          Not that Rolen is Brett by any measure. Right now, Rolen is short career for any HOF consideration. We’ll see three years from now.

        5. Yes, having a long career is certainly more valuable than having a short career.

          The point is that there is more to being a HOF’er than just having a long career. Is Jamie Moyer and his 280+ wins a HOF player or is he just a guy who’s been fortunate enough to play a very long time. My definition of a HOF player is someone who is considered one of the best players in the game during a period of their career. Scott Rolen has been a good player for much of his career but that doesn’t make him HOF material. As I stated previously, he was top-10 in the league in WAR just twice in a 17 year career.

          Is Carlos Beltran a HOF player? Look up Beltran’s career WAR and you’ll see it’s not that far behind Rolen and he’s 2 years younger. He’s also won GG awards.

        6. I have to side with Alan – I think it’s becoming pretty clear that Rolen is either a HOF player or he’s pretty damned close. He is 3 WAR behind Brooks Robinson and, with 66 WAR, is keeping company with many Hall of Famers. Also, I believe SI or ESPN’s rankings of the top players of the 2000s had Rolen in the top 10. Because we don’t like the guy very much (because he’s a bit of a whiny baby), we tend to undervalue him. Rolen displayed all 5 tools. In the field, few are his peer. He hits with power, he hits for average, he has a good eye and is an outstanding baserunner.

          I’m not sure he’ll make it to the Hall (right now, I’d vote no), but he’s within spitting distance.

        7. Peak Beltran was a HOF caliber player, absolutely. (His SB/CS ratio is unreal.) But Beltran needs a late career resurgence as well.

          Looked up Rolen’s WAR from ages 26-30 to see how his peak measured up against 3B.

          1. Mike Schmidt

          12. Buddy Bell
          13. Tony Perez
          14. Scott Rolen
          15. Brooks Robinson
          16. Ron Cey

          476. Jim Presley

          Two Hall of Famers, two non-HOFers in that group.

  16. Having been a basketball player should help Altherr with the quick reactions needed to play third base. As far as power, he’s 6’5″ and 180 pounds. This seems terribly thin to me. He could put on more height as I think he is still a teenager and will add weight. Power could come. Didn’t it take Brown time to develop power? I’m not going to pin him down as Polanco yet because his body type is completely different.

  17. Weren’t Altherr’s and Dom’s stats eerily similar their first years? Why couldn’t he develop power similar to how Dom did?

  18. If he’s really 6’5″ and skinny at 19, I’d bet that the power will show up sooner or later. Don’t they say it’s often the last tool to develop? Also, with that frame/projection, the Polly comps seem a little off to me.

        1. And Durant was absolutely a power hitter. He just couldn’t make the contact necessary to make use of it.

          If I were to pose a counter-example, I’d use Brad Lidge.

  19. jumpin you think he is hall of fame player? I think the injuries will hurt him , he to me has seem to miss a lot of time.

    1. I have a hard time with him being Hall of Fame because he has left three teams of his own volition and I do not think of him as a great player, but he is probably the est fielding 3B of all time and has been a very good hitter. There are other people in the industry who believe that he is an HOF’er that work for ESPN – and they are opinion makers – who may advance his candidacy.

      1. Great baserunner too—–looking at HOF third basemen, I give him a real shot if he puts up a couple more rspectable seasons.

  20. It strikes me as extremely unusual to see a third baseman who is 6’5″. Ran a search and the only third baseman that height who had a real career was Troy Glaus. Glaus eventually battled injuries and moved to first base/DH. It seems to me that a LOT of tall third basemen end up moving sooner rather than later. Archie Cianfrocco, Miguel Cabrera, Enos Cabell, Carlos Martinez. I’m sure the Phillies’ brass sees something, but this just doesn’t make sense to me.

      1. Jones and Rolen are the exception. But Chipper Jones is a once in a lifetime player. Maybe Altherr can do it. But I think there’s a definite pattern to the development of tall infielders.

    1. Ron Cey was 5′ nothing. There are exceptions to every rule (and by the way Rolen is a 6’4″ guy).
      The bar is not high at 3B. Strong arms are the most important attribute, the next is guts and soft hands.
      Who knows what he can do. But if he comes a .275, 20 homer, 100 run guy who is a middle level fielder… wow, what an important thing for the Phillies future.

    2. Rolen is 6’4″. I don’t think an extra inch is that big of a deal.

      I don’t think there’s much downside in trying him at the position, but comments by folks suggesting that third base involves a strong arm, soft hands and not much else . . . well, I disagree with that. Shortstops are the only players that I see moving to third with relative ease. Many other players struggle at the position or just never play it well. It involves having a strong arm, quick reactions, great agility (charging a ball), and more than a little fearlessness.

  21. I see the move as a good sign the organization has a lot of confidence in Guantlett Eldemire. A way of getting both players a full season of ABs. It keeps Eldemire’s value high by keeping him in CF, while increasing Altherr’s value.
    If it doesn’t work out, Altherr goes back to CF. What’s the harm?

  22. Rolen and Altherr , same body type, I think not. What’s that based upon similar height and having played Basketball. Looks like some need to look into the meaning of body type. Rolen would be classed among the parameter of pure mesomorph maybe shading a bit to the meso-endo category. Altherr I would class in the Ecto-meso class, built along the lines of Von Hayes. And don’t think the listed height and weight is some be all and end all, that 6’5 180 or 6’5 190 thing, that is probably his weigh in weight when drafted. I would say 6’5 200 , but may be constant from that going forward.
    ….I don’t get the tendency to award the LO-A full season job to Gauntlett Eldemire when he has not appeared yet. I would say Kyrell Hudson, if he can advance in the minor league spring training would be favored for CF, given if this change sticks. I’d have Santana anchored in RF, Hudson or Eldemire in CF, and Miguel Alvarez in LF with Hewitt OF/DH ( this is with Dugan 1B and Altherr 3B) , OR with my original prediction of both Hudson and Eldemire at Williamsport, they keep Santana RF, slide Miguel Alvarez to CF and LF for Hewitt, Geancarlo Mendez, or Zach Collier with one of these as DH, OR the DH situation could be filled by Mattair who can spell Altherr at 3B at times when they think he can use a spell for defensive purposes.

  23. Because of the ‘hole’ in the Phillies system, trying to move their numerous OF to 3B or 1B makes sense. But 3B is lower on the defensive spectrum than CF so does this move actually hurt Altherr’s pure prospect status?
    I still think Dugan should get some time at 3B also, because I highly doubt he will hit for enough power to be a major league 1B. However, I think he will only be at 1B until some rotation into the OF is worked out amongst the many candidates.

    1. I think you’re right that CF is a premium position to 3B, but being able to play both is even better.

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