Finally, we have a new face to introduce to the 2014 Phils, Cody Asche. Since his arrival on July 30th Asche has manned the hot corner most nights and appears to be the heir apparent when the Phils open the 2014 season. In Asche’s first five games, which included a pinch-hitting opportunity in his first game, followed by four starts, Asche was off to a rough start. He was 1 for 17 at the plate and had already committed 3 errors. He attributed the slow start to being nervous, which is pretty understandable for a player just past his 23rd birthday. Asche fast tracked it to the major leagues in an organization that is known to notoriously bring their prospects along slowly.
Asche was a standout baseball player at Fort Zumwall West High School in Missouri where he was named first team all state his senior year. As a college freshman at the University of Nebraska he split time at 3B and hit .290 with two HR’s and 21 RBI’s in 43 games. By his sophomore year third base was all Asche’s, and he responded by hitting .311 with 10 HR’s and 58 RBI’s in 52 games. Asche was named honorable mention All-Big 12 that year. As a junior in 2011 Asche hit .327 with 12 HR’s, 56 RBI’s and a .639 slugging percentage. He led the conference in HR’s and was 2nd in RBI’s. He was named 2nd team All-America before being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 4th round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft.
After being drafted out of the University of Nebraska Asche went right to work for the Williamsport Crosscutters in the New York-Pennsylvania League (NYPL). The NYPL is considered short season A- baseball, two steps below the Clearwater Threshers, the Phils top single A affiliate. His manager there was Mickey Morandini. Asche had a rough go at it in his first season of pro ball, moving to 2nd base and hitting only .192 with 2 HR’s in 239 AB’s.
In 2012 Asche was moved back to 3rd base and promoted to Clearwater, jumping over the Lakeland Blue Claws of the South Atlantic League. In 255 AB’s in Clearwater Asche put up a slash line of .349/.378/.447. Halfway through the season he was promoted to the AA Readin Phightin Phils where he continued to improve. In 263 AB’s Asche’s slash line was .300/.360/.513. He began finding his power stroke at Reading, hitting 10 HR’s there as opposed to only 2 HR’s in Clearwater. That winter Asche was sent to the Arizona Fall League to continue working on his craft.
In 2013 Asche started the season at the Phils AAA affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. After a slow start things started coming together for Asche. He was named to the International League All-Star game and continued moving forward putting up a line of .295/.352/.485 in 104 games. Then came the call from the big team…Asche was going to the show.
After getting off to a slow start Asche began feeling more comfortable and let his natural ability take over from there. Asche stands in the batters box at 6’1″ and weighs 190 pounds. He appears physically mature with very little growth potential. Asche has a smooth LH swing that generates a lot of line drives. Since arriving in Reading Asche has shown good plate discipline, keeping his OBP at least .56 points higher than his BA through three levels of baseball. Asche likes to swing early in the count, looking for a fastball he can drive to all fields. He’s not a natural pull hitter but does have 15-20 HR potential. With his natural line drive swing he appears capable of hitting .270-.280 with 25-35 doubles and the occasional triple.
Currently, in what is admittedly a small sample size, Asche has a slash line of .269/.333/.448. His .781 OPS is 5th on the team behind only Ruf, Utley, Brown and Howard. Asche has 13 XBH’s with 5 HR and 21 RBI’s in 134 AB’s. Projected over a full season that would be a very good rookie year, but projecting out small sample sizes can be dangerous and is rarely accurate.
The downfall in Asche’s hitting is his high strikeout rate – especially on a team that already strikes out too much. Since arriving in the majors his strikeout ratio is 23.1%. That’s slightly better than his 23.5% strkieout ratio while playing for the IronPigs this year. Even at AA Reading in 2012 that number was at 21.3%. For a NL East comparison we can look at Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals. He has a strikeout ratio around 23 %, but he also has a .281 BA, 25 HR’s, 74 RBI’s and an .833 OPS to go along with it. If Asche can replicate those numbers I don’t think we’d hear nearly as much about his strikeouts.
As a team the Phils strikeout ratio is 22.1 % (including pitchers). They’d very much like to lower that number, as they have the 9th most SO’s in the NL. In our 2014 projected lineup only Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf have a higher strikeout ratio than Asche, but we expect that and tolerate it a little more from HR hitters. Anything over 20% is a high number for an every day player that’s hitting .269, but we’re hopeful that working with Phils coaches, including Mike Schmidt next spring will have a positive impact on Asche’s overall game.
Asche looks to be an average defensive third baseman. He has some difficulties on balls hit to his right, and his range and arm don’t appear to be anything special. After a season with Michael Young manning the hot corner Asche may look pretty good, but keep in mind the comparison there. At this stage of his career Michael Young just may very well be the worst defensive third baseman in baseball. Nevertheless, Asche’s still a defensive upgrade from the Phillies perspective.
The hot corner could be a very interesting position for the Phillies in the next two years. Next year it’s all but certain that Asche will play the majority of games there, but what happens when Maikel Franco is ready? At the pace he’s climbing the minor league ladder that shouldn’t be too long. Until that day comes, playing third base for the Philadelphia Phillies…Cody Asche.