2014 Phillies Report Card: Cody Asche
This is where expectations become a little unkind. In absolute terms, Cody Asche‘s not that bad. In 613 plate appearances over two seasons–about a season’s worth of work for a full-time starter–he’s hit .252/.309/.390, very slightly below the National League averages in all three rate categories in that time. Despite obvious comparisons in statue, stance, pigmentation and even uniform number to Chase Utley, Asche lacks the athleticism and defensive instincts Utley used to become one of the greatest defensive second basemen ever, so he’s in a little bit of a tough spot.
You see, being a slightly below-average hitter–and he’s still only 24, so it’s probably uncharitable to say he’ll surely never improve–is fine for a third baseman if you can really pick it, but barring some sort of unforeseen defensive transformation, that’s not the case. The first part of the 2014 season was murder on Asche defensively, and while he wound up being just bad defensively, it was so much worse than that for a long time.
So what we’ve got here is a 24-year-old who’s not good enough with the glove right now to be anything more than a below-average third baseman, and not good enough with the bat to be a four corners guy. (I know it’s hard to remember a time when you needed to be a real masher to play first base or corner outfield for the Phillies, but such a time existed, trust me.)
It’s an odd place to be, and how you feel about it depends on your expectations. If you saw “prospect” and thought Asche would be some sort of savior–not on the level of a Mike Trout or a The Mighty Giancarlo Stnaton, but maybe on the level of Matt Carpenter, a true plus third baseman and rebuilding cornerstone–that was never realistic. If Asche was going to start on the Phillies’ next playoff team, he was going to hit near the bottom of the order.
Asche was a fourth-round college guy who was supposed to rise quickly and provide major league help (which he’s done), but never had more than the ceiling of an average regular. He never appeared on a top 100 list, and the only time Baseball Prospectus ranked him, he was the seventh-best prospect in the 24th-best farm system in baseball.
If you’re going from that perspective, you have to be thrilled that Asche is at least a solid bench guy and still could be a second-division regular. But if you’re going from the perspective that Asche was supposed to be the Phillies’ third baseman of the future, you’re going to be disappointed. The bad news for Asche is that Maikel Franco, who does have the potential to be more than the kind of third baseman you’d expect to find on a 73-win team, is just about ready for his turn at third base. That means that if Asche’s going to get another full season or two in which he can wring out all his untapped potential, it might not be with the Phillies.
A letter grade is pretty useless here, because if you’re grading on absolute terms, we have objective tools to do that–I don’t know why I’d put a grade on his performance when I could just link you to his FanGraphs page. But if we’re grading on expectations, a letter grade is equally problematic, because my expectations for Asche were extremely low, while I know others felt differently. I feel like bench guy/second-division regular is something like a 50th-percentile outcome for Asche, even though his 2014 season somehow managed to be both encouraging and disappointing at the same time. In other words, I’m sorry I’m giving everyone a C.