The Philadelphia Phillies removed former highly touted outfielder Domonic Brown from the 40-man roster last week, ostensibly cutting ties with the player who was once considered the top prospect in all of baseball.
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Cody Asche has never received such accolades, was never considered a top prospect. He has, however, been sold to the fan base over the last couple of seasons as if he is an integral part of the team’s future.
The time has come for fans to fully understand that Asche is not such an important player, and in fact should be counted on as nothing more than a bench or reserve player as the Phillies move forward with their rebuilding program.
It is also time for the Phillies themselves to stop selling Asche as a vital piece to either the present or future success of the team. While the team absolutely has to market players and personalities as they continue the rebuild, their emphasis to the fans should be with the most talented developing players, not mediocre players such as Asche.
Asche will turn 26 years old next June 30th, right in the middle of the 2016 season. While he is no longer a kid, he is also far from a lost cause. However, all we need to do is make an honest evaluation of his pedigree and playing history at both the minor league and big league levels to make the case in assessing him honestly.
Asche was born and raised in Missouri, and became the fourth round choice by the Phillies in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Nebraska. He began a pro career at Low-A Williamsport in 2011, and has spent time at the minor league level in the Phils system during each of the last five seasons.
With his performance in the minors during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Asche put himself on the map as a potential big leaguer. In 2012, he hit for a .324/.369/.481 slash line across two levels, producing a dozen homers, 33doubles, 72 RBI, 73 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases.
In 2013 at AAA Lehigh Valley, Asche hit for a .295/.352/.485 line while banging 15 homers, driving in 68, scoring 52 runs, and stealing another 11 bags across 446 plate appearances.
This led to Asche’s first big league promotion at the 2013 MLB trade deadline. At 23 years of age, he spent the rest of that season as the Phillies starter at 3rd base. He hit for just a .230 average, and produced a mere five homers and 22 RBI in just 179 plate appearances while holding his own defensively at the hot corner.
Over the last two seasons, Asche has basically tred water, establishing his value to the team: an athletic and potentially versatile, yet mediocre ball player. In 2014, Asche hit for a .252/.309/.390 line with 10 homers and 46 RBI in 434 plate appearances. This year, his line was .245/.294/.305, and he produced 12 homers and 39 RBI in 456 plate appearances.
In the season’s final weeks, Asche produced a multi-homer game against the Miami Marlins. After that game, the AP quoted Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: “That’s the way we see him swinging the bat. It’s good to see him swinging the bat like we think he can.”
If this is true, if Mackanin and whomever the Phillies’ “we” is these days believes that Asche is a home run hitter, they are completely ignoring history. It’s an old truth that those who refuse to learn the lesson’s of history are doomed to repeat them.
Asche has established his value as a .250 hitter who will give the Phillies 12-15 homers and perhaps 50 or so RBI over a full season of play. That should not be a starting caliber player on a championship team.
Unless the Phillies step up earlier in the rebuilding program than most expect, and dig deep into their pockets for a big free agent outfielder or two this winter, there is every chance that Asche will receive at least semi-regular appearances in the 2016 season. And unless Asche steps up with greater results, he could find himself, as Brown did last week, on the road to another organization.