CLEARWATER -- Aaron Altherr may not be the loudest member of the Clearwater Threshers clubhouse. His skill set, however, has plenty to say.
The Philadelphia Phillies drafted Altherr in the ninth round in 2009 out of Agua Fria High School in Avondale, Arizona. He made his professional debut that year with 28 games in the Gulf Coast League, and has since steadily climbed the ranks of the Phillies farm system.
The 22-year old kicked off this season with Clearwater on a tear, batting .348 in April and .297 in May. While the young outfielder has cooled off in the second half, Altherr has managed to eclipse his personal bests in home runs and RBI while pacing the Florida State League with 31 doubles.
Altherr was born in Germany - his mother stationed there in the US military, and his father a former German professional soccer player. After moving to Kansas City briefly, the Altherrs set up residence in Arizona, where Aaron grew up playing mostly shortstop.
In high school Altherr excelled on the court as well as the diamond, receiving offers to play basketball at Division I schools such as San Diego and Southern Methodist University. Instead, he elected to forgo his senior basketball season in order to focus on baseball.
"It was really hard because I do miss it," Altherr says, "but I knew I had a better shot at playing baseball, so I stuck with that."
Entering the 2013 season, Baseball America rated Altherr as the No. 25 prospect in the Phillies organization, after ranking 15th prior to 2012. Altherr hit .252 last year in 110 games with Low-A Lakewood.
The biggest question involved translating his terrific tools into consistent production on the diamond.
Altherr has emerged as a speedy outfielder with a solid arm, showing his versatility by playing all three outfield positions for Clearwater while racking up a team-high 14 outfield assists - second-most in the FSL. His power production has increased, as the 6'5" Altherr is slugging a career-best .463, including ten home runs.
Yet Altherr also is third in the FSL in strikeouts, with 121 K's in 99 games. Altherr says that "staying level through the zone" is the main aspect of his game that he has been working to improve upon.
While Altherr continues to develop his approach at the plate, his strategy on the base paths has made him a top stolen base threat for Clearwater. Altherr has swiped a team-high 18 bases this year, and has only been caught three times.
"It's just knowing when to go, knowing what pitchers you can steal off of," Altherr says. "Know the pitcher, know the catcher - if they have a good arm or not - and you just pick your spots."
Altherr picks his spots well. In fact, throughout his professional career he boasts an 81.7% success rate, having stolen 98 bases over five seasons.
The laid-back outfielder has been pleased with his progression in 2013.
"This year I had a goal of getting at least 10 home runs," Altherr says, "and just to get at least 20 or 25 stolen bases."
"I'm closing in on my goals, so I'm happy about that."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.