Tommy Joseph snuck up on everyone in 2016. A castoff heading into last year, he made himself a focal point of this season's offense. The Phillies have a guy on the roster who could shock people this year.
With the hype around Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and Roman Quinn alongside the acquisitions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders, everyone has forgotten about Aaron Altherr.
This is the 15th in a series of previews for the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. We recently looked at starting pitcher Clay Buchholz. This post looks at how Altherr is a complete Wild Card for the Phillies.
Altherr burst onto the scene with a monster cameo in 2015, blasting five home runs, four triples and 11 doubles. In 39 games. So, over a whole season, that graded out to 20 homers, 16 triples and 44 doubles.
Then he got injured during Spring Training to start the 2016 season and seemed to have a limp swing when he returned to the lineup, hitting .197/.300/.288 in 57 games.
Well, he seemed to bounce back in Spring Training, slashing .303/.391/.591 with four home runs, five doubles and a triple in 26 games.
It's hard to figure out what will happen with Altherr this year.
Just how much will Altherr play?
He's probably going to be the back-up center fielder for Odubel Herrera. The trouble for Altherr there is that Herrera has missed a grand total of 18 games the past two seasons. It's hard to imagine, barring an injury, Altherr getting more than 5-8 starts in center field this year.
Considering Saunders is a left-handed batter, it's not hard to imagine Altherr playing against some tough left-handed pitchers. That might be another 8-12 starts. Because Saunders has never played more than 140 games in a season, we can probably expect Altherr to play another 10 games in the outfield while Saunders deals with injuries. Since both Altherr and Kendrick are right-handed, it's hard to imagine Altherr getting many starts in left. Those will probably go to Daniel Nava.
So that's 23-30 starts. He'll probably pinch hit a bit, too. If Altherr proves he can hit and forces a trade, there's a chance he could end up with 40-50 starts on the year.
If Altherr plays well enough, he'll allow for some extra seasoning for Quinn, Cozens and Williams.
Then again, the other factor for Alther is what happens with the minor leaguers. Nick Williams was one of the younger guys in the International League last year. If he puts up an impressive slash line, the Phillies could call him up. Or if Roman Quinn is dynamic and healthy, he could take at-bats away from Altherr.
Forcing Pete's handThe Phillies struggled getting on base last year. Well, they've been struggling in that area for quite awhile.
Altherr has a .311 on-base percentage during his short career. Only two Phillies starters - Herrera and Cesar Hernandez - had better marks last year. So if Altherr gets on-base at his 2015 clip (.339), he's going to find himself in the lineup more.
Altherr's pop, which can be prodigious, could also force manager Pete Mackanin's hand. If Altherr is driving balls into the gap and over the fence, he's going to end up in the lineup.
The Phillies have 10 games in American League Ballparks this year. Altherr could play well enough that Mackanin would toss Kendrick into the DH spot and Altherr would end up in left for those games.
One thing that's exciting about the Phillies right now is that there's a solid chance the 2018 Phillies could have a dynamic outfield with Herrera anchoring the outfield and Williams, Altherr and Quinn dividing up the rest of the at-bats.