2016 Phillies Report Card: Cody Asche
Cody Asche, as most Phillies’ fans are aware, was the team’s 4th round pick in the 2011 draft, and one of the team’s top prospects in the nascent stages of the organization’s rebuilding effort. Asche rose quickly through the Minor Leagues, succeeding at several levels and emerging as the team’s everyday third baseman in 2013, only two full seasons removed from his professional debut.
He assumed everyday duties again in 2014, but was forced to adapt to left field following the Major League emergence of Maikel Franco in 2015. His Minor League success just hasn’t translated to the Major Leagues, where his offense consistently sat 10 percent worse than league average from 2013-2015. His defense (both at third base and left field) has been seen as below average as well, but regardless, he entered 2016 firmly in the team’s outfield mix.
Unfortunately for Asche, his season began with an inauspicious start – an oblique injury in Spring Training delayed his debut until early June. Once in the Majors, Asche was unable to get going with any consistency and produced a 72 wRC+ from June 2 through August 9. Days after the final game of that stretch, Peter Bourjos returned from the disabled list and Asche was optioned back to Lehigh Valley. Much to his credit, he took the demotion in stride, and in an exceedingly professional manner.
He returned to triple-A for 23 games, and hit exceptionally well (.302/.381/.512). Asche was among the first wave of September call ups, joining Phil Klein, Luis Garcia, and Joely Rodriguez in Philadelphia. However, he received almost no playing time (26 plate appearances) for the remainder of the year, and there was no sign of dramatic improvement during that time.
His total production in 2016 (70 wRC+, continued negative defensive evaluations) is certainly a disappointment, and probably won’t last another full season in the Majors at that level. Asche is arbitration-eligible in 2017, and while his cost won’t be prohibitive, the team may strongly consider other options in the outfield.
In the outfield, Odubel Herrera, Howie Kendrick, and Aaron Altherr are the players I’d consider locks on the active roster (with the latter potentially in a bench role). The team needs five Major League-ready outfielders, and while there is a decent chance Roman Quinn secures one of the two remaining spots, there is still room for someone else on the bench. If Asche is tendered a contract, his 2017 role will then be determined by a Spring Training battle with several players (likely headlined by top prospect Nick Williams). The Phillies may very well move on from Asche this offseason, at which point he may sign a Minor League deal with another team in need of outfield depth.
Cody Asche’s 2016 season was a disappointment anyway you slice it, and certainly not at a level that is sustainable in the Majors. So far, he’s been unable to continue the approach at the plate that lead to Minor League success. If the team isn’t confident he can make a significant change from his struggles in 2016, he may spend 2017 competing for playing time in a different MLB organization.