You’ve undoubtedly had plenty of time now over the last 36 hours to digest the news that the Phillies have decided to send former starting 3rd baseman Cody Asche down to AAA in order to have him develop further as a left fielder.
The move is clearly in anticipation of the expected promotion this coming weekend of one of the organization’s top prospects, 3rd baseman Maikel Franco.
It is the right decision. Franco is not only a clearly more potent offensive weapon, but he is also clearly a better defender as a 3rd baseman.
But what about the future for Asche?
“Cody’s a big part of the future going forward, a big piece.” ~ Sandberg
After delivering the news to the player following Monday night’s loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, manager Ryne Sandberg addressed the media, stating the following: “A difficult conversation, but also Cody’s a big part of the future going forward, a big piece. He’s one of the guys. It’s best for the player and the organization.”
On Tuesday morning, GM Ruben Amaro stated to local Philly sports radio station WIP: “In my heart of hearts, I believe that Cody is going to be part of the core players we’re going to try to move this organization forward with.”
If they really mean that, then either they, or President Pat Gillick, or some combination, or all three are either delusional, incompetent, or trying to sell us a fraudulent bill of goods.
It’s possible they may be playing verbal semantics here. Perhaps the skipper and GM really believe that Asche will become a valuable, multi-positional bench player, and that in such role he will be a “big part”, a “core” piece.
But when you’re building from the bottom of baseball, as the Phillies are, and at least a couple of years away from winning again, I don’t consider future bench players as a “big part” of anything.
Whether it were at the hot corner or in left, Cody Asche is never going to be a “big part” of the Phillies “core” future, as I would define that. He may have a part to play as the team improves (hopefully) in the coming years.
But that will be as nothing more than a bit player, a small part. Based on pure talent and his track record of performance, that is all anyone should expect.
Just last month, when Asche was off to a hot start, our own Ethan Witte speculated over at TBOH as to whether that’s all we were witnessing, a fast start, or whether it was the beginning of a true breakout campaign for the 4th round 2011 draftee.
Ethan stated that “his early season success is unsustainable“, but believed that he could find a steady role if he were able to make adjustments at the plate.
Asche will turn 25 years old at the end of June. He now has accumulated 726 big league plate appearances, a bit more than one full season’s worth, in parts of three actual seasons played. He has 17 homers and 72 rbi, with a .247/.303/.383 slash line.
In his minor league career, Asche accumulated a .292/.351/.450 slash line in nearly 1,300 plate appearances across parts of five seasons, with 32 homeruns and 23 stolen bases.
What all that makes Asche is a potentially competent backup major leaguer. If the Phillies can get him to become even a passable left fielder, and can somehow work him in a little at 3rd, and maybe even at 1st base, during this minor league stint and as he develops further over the next year or so, they may have a nice, valuable utility backup.
For his part, after getting over the initial shock of the demotion, Asche has his head screwed on straight and is taking the right attitude. Prior to his debut at Lehigh Valley last night, he was quoted by Matt Lombardo at NJ.com:
“I had a hint that a change may be coming. I didn’t know how the change was going to happen or how I was going to make the switch. I didn’t see it happening here, but you have to trust that they know what’s best for me. That’s really all I’m doing. I’m just trusting in them. I’ve done it through my entire career. Just trusting in the decisions they make. They’ve been good to me so far. So, there’s no reason for concern now.”
Cody Asche is a good guy, and a nice little player. But to count on him as any kind of key player, or to sell fans on his being a “big part of the future” here in Philly is an overstatement at best, and an affront at worst.
I hope he takes to the outfield, and can come back at some point as a valuable substitute moving forward. But let’s never kid ourselves on what this player will become.