Tag Archives: Aaron Altherr

Can the Phillies expect much from Andrew McCutchen in 2020?

There is an old saying that goes something like “Father Time is undefeated.” It’s not actually true, as athletes such as Gordie Howe, Tom Brady, Roger Federer, Brett Favre, and Jack Nicklaus have proven. Baseball has seen the old man taken down by the likes of Randy Johnson, Bartolo Colon, and Jamie Moyer.

But in the overwhelming majority of his battles with professional athletes, Father Time will indeed come out victorious. Professional athletics is a young man’s game. As players push into and through their 30’s, without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) it is usually impossible for most to keep up for very long with newly arriving, talented youngsters.

In his 20’s, Andrew McCutchen was one of the best baseball players on the planet. He was the first round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2005 MLB Draft at 11th overall out of a Florida high school. Four years later he broke into the big-leagues in 2009 at age 22, finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

For five straight years from 2011-15, McCutchen was an NL All-Star. In 2012 he won the NL Gold Glove Award for center fielders and took home the first of what would become four consecutive NL Silver Slugger Awards. For that performance he finished third in the NL MVP voting.

In 2013, McCutchen was the National League Most Valuable Player, leading the Pirates to the postseason for the first time in more than two decades. He would finish third in that MVP voting once again in 2014 and fifth in 2015.

McCutchen wrapped up his Pittsburgh run with a pair of seasons in 2016-17 that were still solid, but a notch below his MVP-caliber campaigns, and the Pirates dropped out of contender status.

In January 2018 the Pirates traded away their former superstar to the San Francisco Giants. He would move across the country to play with a new team at age 31.

McCutchen was clearly slowed down in the City by the Bay, and was forced to slide over from center to right field. His time in San Francisco wouldn’t last long. With the Giants out of contention he was dealt at the August 31 waiver deadline to the New York Yankees.

In the off-season, McCutchen became a free agent for the first time in his career. The Phillies inked him to a three-year deal on December 12, 2018 and penned him into the starting lineup as their new left fielder, allowing Rhys Hoskins to return to his natural position at first base.

Left field had become a revolving door position over the prior half-decade for the Phillies with Aaron Altherr, Cody Asche, Tyler Goeddel, and Domonic Brown all taking a turn as the starter at various times. While they knew McCutchen was no longer an MVP-caliber player, it was expected that he would provide veteran leadership and hold down the position for a few seasons.

The Phillies went to San Diego in early June in the midst of a west coast road trip with the club in first place in the National League East Division at 33-27. McCutchen was providing not only that leadership but also producing solid offensive numbers with 10 homers, 12 doubles, 29 RBIs, and 45 runs scored.

At that point, McCutchen had filled the role as Gabe Kapler‘s leadoff man perfectly. In fact, he was tops among all leadoff men in Major League Baseball in runs and walks, ranking fifth in on-base percentage and extra-base hits.

Then it all came to an end on what seemed like such an innocent play. McCutchen led off the June 2 opening game in San Diego with a walk. He was on first base when new shortstop Jean Segura popped up to second base. Segura slipped coming out of the batter’s box, and when he regained his footing did not run hard to first base.

The Padres second baseman was veteran Ian Kinsler, who noticed that Segura was not running hard. He decided to let the ball fall to the ground and try for a double play. McCutchen had stayed close to first base, assuming the pop-up would be caught. He suddenly had to run hard for second base, and was caught in a rundown. During the course of that rundown he twisted his knee and crumpled to the ground.

It would turn out that McCutchen had suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. He would miss the remainder of the season.

As the Phillies slumped out of the division lead over the next few weeks, Hoskins was quoted by Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer on the loss of McCutchen: “This guy does more for this clubhouse than maybe he even knows. He’s a presence in this lineup, a presence on the team and the field.

In mid-June, McCutchen underwent surgery to repair a medial meniscus and reconstruct the ACL in his left knee.

It has been a long, arduous process, but McCutchen’s rehab seems to be going well. He was quoted by John Perrotto of Forbes in early December:

There were so many times I tried to sit back and cry about it, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I knew I had to stay positive, concentrate on my rehab and come back strong. I feel great. I’m already looking forward to spring training.

From 2017-19 in his ages 30-32 seasons, McCutchen slashed a cumulative .265/.368/.455 and his production over a full season of 162 games would have averaged out to 26 home runs, 32 doubles, 80 RBIs, 98 runs, and 12 stolen bases.

However, the Phillies cannot expect to get 162 games out of McCutchen at age 33, especially coming off major reconstructive knee surgery. In fact, a best-case scenario for the club might involve a left field platoon with the right-handed bat of McCutchen and the lefty-hitting Jay Bruce.

McCutchen is a better defensive player at this point in their careers than Bruce, who will also turn 33 years of age at the start of April. So, while we wouldn’t be talking about a full platoon, Bruce could get 1-2 starts per week on average. Such an arrangement could keep both veterans healthy while maximizing their production.

On Christmas Eve, he and wife Maria welcomed their second child to the world with the birth of Armani X McCutchen. With a new addition to the family and an improving  physical condition, McCutchen is enthusiastic at this point and looking forward to helping the Phillies take a step forward in 2020.

The Phillies are hoping to actually contend over the entire season this time around, pushing for their first playoff berth in nine years. Getting a healthy, productive season from McCutchen would be just one of a number of things that need to go right with the club in order for that to happen.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

Adam Haseley suddenly finds himself starting for Phillies, ready or not

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Series of unfortunate circumstances propel Haseley to the bigs

There has been no official announcement from manager Gabe Kapler, general manager Matt Klentak, or anyone else in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

But there is no other way to look at the present situation regarding the Phillies injury-depleted outfield. Against all odds, Adam Haseley has become the starting center fielder for a Philadelphia Phillies team that still hopes to contend for a National League East Division crown.
The center field position has been in flux for weeks. The year opened with Odubel Herrera beginning what appeared to be his fifth season as the everyday starter. At just 27 years old and with a contract that runs at least through the 2021 campaign, and with no other healthy candidates appearing ready in the organization, Herrera’s job appeared as secure as any on the team.
However, Herrera came up injured on April 17, just 17 games into the 2019 season. At that exact same time, the perennially injured Roman Quinn was ready to return to the team. Quinn immediately was inserted into the lineup in Herrera’s place.
As most anyone who has followed the team over the last few years could have predicted, Quinn didn’t last long. After just seven games, he came up injured once again. Scott Kingery, the super-utility player who the team believed was also capable of covering center field, also came down with his own injury issues.
This began a nearly two-week period in which the position was in flux. Andrew McCutchen was moved over from left field to cover center field most days. The problem there was that it left a hole in left field. Aaron Altherr‘s game had completely fallen apart, to the point where he was released. Nick Williams wasn’t hitting at all, and would eventually find himself shipped back to Triple-A.
Herrera finally returned from the Injured List on May 4, but he did not produce. Over 22 games and 70 plate appearances during the month of May, Herrera slashed just .175/.257/.302 with no homers, nine RBIs, and five runs scored. He was proving a black hole in the batting order.
And then it really began to completely unravel. Just over a week ago as the club returned home from a tough road trip, Herrera was arrested following a domestic assault incident at an Atlantic City casino hotel. He is now being investigated by Major League Baseball, and his career with the Phillies may be over.
Both Herrera and McCutchen have been lost for different reasons, leaving Harper as the lone Opening Day starter left standing. (Ian D’Andrea)
McCutchen and Kingery, who had finally returned from the IL himself, had been covering center field since that time. Just two days ago, the Phillies completed a trade with the Seattle Mariners, obtaining veteran left-handed power bat Jay Bruce. The plan was to have Bruce as a power lefty bat off the bench, but also to play him in left field against tough right-handers, with McCutchen covering center field and Kingery returning to his super-utility role.
As the old saying goes, the best laid plans often go awry. That seems to be especially the case with the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies. During a crazy rundown play in Monday night’s series opener out in San Diego, McCutchen came up injured as well, clutching at his knee and needing assistance to limp off the field.
McCutchen will undergo an MRI today in order to assess the damage, but he will be out for at least a short period of time. There is a chance that he could be out much longer, even that his season could be over.
McCutchen. Herrera. Quinn. Altherr. Williams. All either injured or failing to produce. And there are only so many players out there available at this point in the season on the trade market. Besides, the Phillies still have other needs to fill if they really want to contend.
So, into the crucible of a five-game losing streak and an injury-ravaged position steps the rookie Haseley. The 23-year-old from Orlando, Florida was the Phillies first round draft pick at eighth overall in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Virginia.
He opened the season as part of a “First-Round Outfield” at Double-A Reading, playing alongside the club’s 2015 first rounder Cornelius Randolph and 2016 first rounder Mickey Moniak.
After slashing .268/.356/.471 with seven homers, 19 RBIs, 27 runs scored, and four stolen bases, Haseley was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley just a week ago. Over six games with the IronPigs, Haseley slashed .320/.370/.440 with three doubles and four RBIs.
Tim Pearrell at Richmond.com quoted Haseley just about two weeks ago on making adjustments to the skill level of pitching at the higher levels of the minors:
“A lot of it is all these guys throw so hard, you don’t really have to go up there and swing 110 percent. Just being aware of that, taking advantage of some counts where you can take that risk, it works out.
That is a great attitude and strategy, one that Haseley will have to carry with him when he steps to the plate in a Phillies uniform to face the even better pitching at the MLB level.
Ideally he would not be here. He would not wear Phillies red pinstripes until September under normal circumstances. He probably needs a couple of hundred plate appearances, at least, against higher-level pitching at that Triple-A level.
But the situation in Philly is not ideal. Far from it. And now the young man who was patrolling a college outfield in Virginia just two springs ago finds himself in the big-leagues. He has the talent to play at this level. But it was situations involving a half-dozen players completely outside of his control that put him here at this time.
Now that they have promoted him, the Phillies have to play him. You cannot sit a 23-year-old top prospect on the bench and let him rot away. If Kapler doesn’t like what he sees, or simply doesn’t have the confidence to actually play him regularly, then Haseley won’t last long.
This is obviously not the long-term answer. Haseley starting in center field. Bruce starting most days in left field. But that is where the Phillies appear to find themselves for the immediate future. Counting on two players who were nowhere in their plans just days ago as their division lead fritters away.

Local product Phil Gosselin proving invaluable off Phillies bench

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Phil Gosselin grew up as a Phillies fan, now plays for the team

Though the Philadelphia Phillies hold a three-game lead (four in the loss column) in the National League East Division standings, there have been weak links in the squad keeping the club from extending their lead even wider.

One of those areas has been a less-than-imposing group of bench players who have collectively produced a mixed bag of results when called upon. Six players have received the bulk of the work in that reserve role, with a few of them seeing starting opportunities when injuries have struck.
The six players making up the Phillies bench for the majority of the season have been backup catcher Andrew Knapp, outfielders Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr (the latter recently DFA’d), and utility players Scott Kingery (currently injured), Sean Rodriguez, and Phil Gosselin.
Prior to suffering his injury the 25-year-old Kingery was on fire and pushing for increased playing time. However, he has been on the Injured List since April 20. The Phillies are hoping that he can begin a minor league rehab stint on Monday and return to the team in short order.
Also producing well has been the veteran Rodriguez, who was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley when starting shortstop Jean Segura was placed on the IL in late April.
Altherr was slashing just .180/.241/.280 prior to his release. Williams is slashing just .180/.241/.280 over 54 plate appearances across 32 games, just nine of those as a starter. Knapp is slashing .172/.333/.241 over 19 games, five of those as the starter behind the plate to give J.T. Realmuto a rest.
A feel-good story off the bench for the Phillies has been the 30-year-old veteran Gosselin, now in his seventh big-league season. The Phillies are Gosselin’s seventh team over the course of his career in Major League Baseball. He previously has seen action with the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers, and Cincinnati Reds.
Part of what makes Gosselin’s story attractive to Phillies fans is that he is a local product. He was born Bryn Mawr, grew up in West Chester, and is a graduate of Malvern Prep High School for whom he played shortstop.
Gosselin went to the University of Virginia and enjoyed a highly successful collegiate career, setting the Cavaliers school record with 100 hits in the 2009 season. That helped earn him first-team All-ACC and third-team All-American honors. He was then selected by the Braves in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft.
He reached the big-leagues with Atlanta in 2013, and since then Gosselin has been used as either a bench player or a Triple-A reserve. His best season came during a 2015 campaign split between Atlanta and Arizona. He appeared in 44 games between the two stops and slashed .311/.373/.500 with career highs of three home runs and 15 RBIs that year.
The most action that he has seen came in the 2016 season with the Diamondbacks. That year, Gosselin received 240 plate appearances over 122 games, the vast majority as a pinch-hitter. He produced a career-high 15 extra-base hits as a valuable member of manager Chip Hale‘s bench group.
Gosselin signed with the Phillies back on December 21. At spring training in Florida he made the most of his opportunities, slashing .405/.444/714 with eight extra-base hits over 19 games and 42 at-bats.
Assigned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to begin the season, Gosselin kept hitting with a .419/.538/.516 slash line over his first 10 games. That performance and some Phillies injury issues led to a mid-April promotion, and his production with the big club has kept him here since that time.
It’s exciting,” Gosselin said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia following his promotion. “I think all of us in here, guys that don’t play every day, want to play every day. We all want to get the chance, no matter if it’s catcher, right field. I’ll put in some work with (infield coach) Bobby Dickerson, keep working at it, and look to make all the routine plays out there so the pitchers have confidence in me.
Gosselin is hitting .300 over 30 plate appearances in 15 games. He started five games at shortstop when Segura was hurt, and has also appeared twice in left field, including once as a starter when Andrew McCutchen was playing in center.
Perhaps most importantly, Gosselin has been the lone player to produce as a pinch-hitter this season. He is batting .500 (4-8) in that role with a pair of RBIs.
On April 24 at Citi Field his 8th inning pinch-single off Robert Gsellman gave the Phillies a 2-0 lead. He would later score during a four-run outburst that broke open a 1-0 game to a 6-0 win.
At Citizens Bank Park on May 1, Gosselin was sent up to pinch-hit by manager Gabe Kapler with the Phillies leading the Detroit Tigers by 6-3. With two outs and two men on and facing Tigers righty reliever Zac Reininger, Gosselin delivered a double to score Cesar Hernandez.
Gosselin has played every position on the infield as well as numerous innings in left field during his career in Major League Baseball. That versatility and the experience gained over 609 big-league plate appearances could prove invaluable to these 2019 Phillies.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as Phil Gosselin has proven he belongs by producing off the Phillies bench

Which Odubel Herrera will return to the Phillies?

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Odubel Herrera’s performance is important to Phillies success

During a 3-2 victory over the division-rival New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on April 17, Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera came away limping after tracking down a 5th inning fly ball in left-center field.

As it turns out, Herrera had strained his right hamstring. He would leave the contest, be placed on the Injured List, and miss the next 14 games. The man who would replace him, Roman Quinn, was activated from the IL the very next day following a minor league rehab stint for his own oblique injury.
The Phillies would drop six of their next eight games. Quinn would start in center field for the first seven of those, slashing an anemic .120/.185/.120 with no extra-base hits and just one run scored. The normally electric speedster would swipe no bases before going down with his own groin strain.
From April 25, the first game that Quinn missed, through Herrera’s return to the starting lineup for Sunday’s victory over the Washington Nationals, manager Gabe Kapler started Aaron Altherr in center field once and then Andrew McCutchen for seven straight games.
When he signed with the Phillies as a free agent back in December, it was to become the starting left fielder. But McCutchen made it clear that he would play wherever the team needed him. Scott Lauber of Philly.com quoted McCutchen, who won a 2012 NL Gold Glove while playing center for the Pittsburgh Pirates, earlier this week:
“I’m always going to view myself as a center fielder even when I’m not playing there. When I retire, I’m going to retire as a center fielder. I may not be playing there. I may be in right, or left, or whatever. But I’m always going to say, ‘I’m a center fielder.’”
The Phillies gave center field to the previously dynamic Roman Quinn, but he failed to produce and then got hurt yet again. (Ian D’Andrea)
The Phillies would win five of the first six games they played with McCutchen in center field, a streak broken only by Saturday’s night’s 8th inning bullpen implosion. That night, Herrera pinch-hit and stayed in the game to play center, with McCutchen moving back to left field.
In Sunday’s 7-1 victory over the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park, Herrera returned to the starting lineup as the center fielder with McCutchen in left. Batting in the 5th spot of Kapler’s order, Herrera went 0-4 with three strikeouts, making him 0-6 overall since being activated.
While you may write-off Herrera’s struggles in the first two games back to his need to regain timing, the fact is that he wasn’t producing prior to the injury.
Herrera is now slashing just .246/.293/.348 over 75 plate appearances across 19 games this season. He has just one homer and five extra-base hits while scoring seven times and driving in seven runs.
This comes on the heels of a mixed 2018 campaign in which he produced a career-high 22 homers and 71 RBIs, but also hit just .255 with a .310 on-base percentage. Despite the home runs, Herrera’s 44 total extra-base hits were down from the 59 he produced in the 2017 season over fewer plate appearances.
Herrera was a stolen base threat when he first came up, swiping 16 bags as a rookie in 2015 and then another 25 the following year. But then Herrera simply stopped running, stealing just 13 total bases over the last two seasons combined. He has none so far this year.
Defensively he has played well, handling 43 chances without being charged with an error to this point. With Quinn hurt and Aaron Altherr having been designated for assignment, Herrera is clearly the best current option to play the center field position on the Phillies roster.
It remains an open question as to the ceiling for the 27-year-old from Venezuela. But there is little to show him as much more than a low-average, modest power, little speed offensive performer. That is not the kind of profile to whom a championship contender wants to give 600 plate appearances as an everyday starter.
Herrera has a chance to be a difference maker for this Phillies team as they fight to remain on top of the National League East Division standings. But if he cannot step up his production it could prove deadly to a team trying to reach the postseason for the first time in eight years.

Aaron Altherr’s days with Phillies come to an end

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Altherr’s performance has deteriorated in 2019

The Philadelphia Phillies activated center fielder Odubel Herrera from the Injured List on Saturday. As a corresponding move the club has decided that Aaron Altherr will be designated for assignment.

With the move, Altherr has been officially removed from the Phillies 40-man roster. This “DFA” move means that the club now has a number of potential outcomes involving the 28-year-old outfielder.
Altherr will now pass through waivers with the potential to be claimed by any team. Should a team make such a claim, Altherr could be pulled back and kept by the Phillies. That is not a likely scenario. Should a team claim him, the Phillies will likely just let Altherr move on.
The Phillies could also work out a trade with any claiming team rather than pull him back. That is not likely, as Altherr’s value is fairly low at this point. Finally, Altherr could pass through waivers without any team claiming him. In that scenario he would become a free agent and could negotiate with any club.
Born in Germany, Altherr was the Phillies pick in the 9th round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft out of an Arizona high school. He reached the big-leagues in 2014, and by 2017 was taking a regular turn as a corner outfielder for the club. In what was by far his best season that year, Altherr slashed .272/.340/.516 with 19 homers, 65 RBIs, and 48 extra-base hits.
Injuries and a lack of production when he was available derailed Altherr’s career in the 2018 season. With the signings of free agents Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, his role for the 2019 season was to be as a bench player.
With the athletic ability to cover all three outfield positions and some pop in his bat, it was hoped that Altherr would prove to be a valuable piece of the new Phillies bench puzzle, but that has not been the case. He was slashing a microscopic .034/.067/.136 this season with just one extra-base hit and one RBI over 30 plate appearances across 22 games.
“We wish Aaron well and believe this is what’s best for him and, obviously, the Phillies,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “We think he can still be a productive player. Just the situation here with us, it was very difficult for him to even get on the field, even to the point of having difficulty finding him pinch-hit at-bats…
Herrera has been recovering from a strained right hamstring and had been on the Injured List since mid-April. The Phillies announced Saturday’s starting lineup with McCutchen still in center field, where he has played in recent days. Phil Gosselin will get the start in left field.
This is likely due to the fact that the Washington Nationals are starting lefty Patrick Corbin on Saturday. Kapler almost certainly prefers giving Herrera another day to rest in the field while having his bat available as a pinch-hitter later in the game. With right-hander AnibalSanchez scheduled to start on Sunday for Washington, it is likely that Herera returns to the starting lineup at that time.
Whenever Kapler decides to write Herrera’s name in the starting lineup, the Phillies will have their regular starting group together for the first time in weeks. McCutchen, who has covered center field in recent days, would slide back to left field. Nick Williams would return to a bench role.