Cody Asche ripped a slider from Mets closer Jenrry Mejia that sparked a Phillies comeback win Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, in a win that won’t mean much in the short-term. He held a .274/.351/.437 line after a three hit game in a Philadelphia loss against the Miami Marlins on June 23rd and has been struggling mightily ever since.
His OBP was lower than .300 prior to Sunday’s Phillies’ victory and Asche had just one extra base hit in his last 46 plate appearances to his 17th double against the Mets in the third game of a four game set over Alumni Weekend. Out of Nebraska University, Philadelphia selected the infielder in the fourth round of the 2011 draft and Asche reached the big leagues at 23 years of age.
He brings a linear swing with far more gap power than home run power. Asche’s career high in home runs (15) was set last year in AAA with 446 plate appearances and a .485 slugging percentage. He’ll likely never improve in that area, expect 10-15 home runs per season during his prime. He’s struck out at a career 23.6% rate in his short career thus far, along with a 7.5% walk rate. His defense is below average in terms of third baseman in MLB, he struggles with fielding certain hopes and doesn’t have as much lateral quickness you should seek out of a fielder in the hot corner.
Compared to last season, Asche has improved defensively according to the numbers. He’s still two defensive runs saved below average this season, but he was seven below average last season in about half the innings of the 2014 campaign. His DRS of -2 ranks him 16th out of 24 qualified third basemen this season according to Fangraphs.
Asche has struggled hitting the ball the opposite way as shown in the spray chart above. He’s yet to hit a home run to the left of right center and has just six doubles to the opposite field according to Brooks Baseball. He hits lefties and righties very similarly, posting a .678 OPS against right-handed pitchers opposed to a .687 OPS against lefties. He appears to have a solid approach at the plate and had a 21.8% line drive rate entering Sunday’s action.
Asche struggles against pitches in off the plate as shown by the chart on pitch location below, often swinging over the top of the ball or whiffing. He struggles on pitches low below the strike zone as well, especially changeups. According to Brooks Baseball, Asche has swung and missed on 44% of off-speed pitches, a high rate.
The Phillies are nearing a crossroad at the third base position and will be forced to make a decision soon this upcoming winter. Infield prospect Maikel Franco is still not ready to become an everyday third baseman at the major league level, but he’s knocking on the door pretty damn loud. Barring the release or trade of Ryan Howard, a sunk cost at the first base position, Asche and Franco could have to be moved around the diamond to find at bats. A trade of Dominic Brown would enable Asche to man left field in 2015, but that is a daunting choice the Phillies shouldn’t even consider making at this point in time.
GM Ruben Amaro should look to get a lot of at bats for Asche the rest of the season, giving Manager Ryne Sandberg and management a bigger sample to diagnose. Asche should be passable as the eight hole hitter for the Phillies moving forward if he isn’t a total albatross in the field. It’s undetermined how much better Asche can become defensively. If he can’t improve enough, he could find his role as a bench player who can fill in at third and the corner outfield spots from time to time.
These last two months are a tryout for Asche, who could be fighting for a starting job in the major leagues come February in Clearwater.