Tag Archives: Cody Asche

Cesar Hernandez is holding off critics with a hot start to the 2019 season

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Cesar Hernandez has been hitting well for over a month

This piece has to begin with a disclaimer. Few writers who cover the Philadelphia Phillies on a regular basis have been more critical of second baseman Cesar Hernandez over the last couple of years than yours truly.

If I’ve called for the Phillies to jettison Hernandez and install Scott Kingery as the starting second baseman once, I’ve done it a hundred times since the winter prior to the 2018 campaign.
Hernandez registered career highs of 15 homers, 60 RBIs, and 91 runs scored. He led the Phillies with 19 stolen bases, tying his career high mark.
However, Hernandez slashed just .220/.321/.332 over the 2018 season’s final two full months. The Phillies were in first place and 11 games over the .500 mark when his poor hitting began in earnest on July 29. By the time it all officially came to an end on September 29, the club had finished in third place. They were 10 games out, and produced a sixth consecutive losing season.
Hernandez wasn’t the only reason for that 2018 collapse. Not by a long shot. But he was consistently unproductive. Many of the other players who made up the bulk of the losing during the previous few seasons were gone already. Freddy Galvis, Dom Brown, Cody AscheJohn Mayberry Jr, Cameron RuppTommy Joseph. All either released or traded away.
The 24-year-old Kingery had struggled in his first taste of the big-leagues last season, but also had been forced out of position to shortstop for most of the year, a position he had never previously played. Kingery had been a star in the minor leagues during the 2017 season, after which he was signed to a club-friendly long-term contract.
The Phillies looked to make wholesale changes to their lineup entering the 2019 campaign. Trades brought in a new shortstop in Jean Segura and a new catcher in J.T. Realmuto. Both Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper were signed to take over the corner outfield spots. Rhys Hoskins was moved back to his more natural first base position.
The idea that the Phillies could upgrade the second base position as well was a natural for those of us in the anti-Cesar camp. Find a taker for a player who would turn 29-years-old this year. Turn the Keystone over to Kingery at his own natural position, where he had won a 2017 minor league Gold Glove.
The calls got even louder as the first few weeks of 2019 unfolded. Kingery came out blazing hot, slashing .406/.457/.719 over his first 14 games. Meanwhile, Hernandez was slashing just .246/.329/.391 with just five extra-base hits over his own first 18 games.
All of the talk came to an end on April 20. The previous day, Hernandez had gone 0-6 in a 4-3, 12-inning loss at Colorado. But Kingery had gotten hurt, straining his right hamstring in the same game. He would be placed on the Injured List and miss a full month.
Whether a coincidence or not, Hernandez seemed to thrive with no one breathing down his neck. He went 2-5 and drove in a run with a double as the Phillies downed the Rockies by 8-5 and has not stopped hitting ever since.
From that April 20 game at Coors Field through last night’s three-hit game at Wrigley Field, Hernandez has been on fire. He has slashed .353/.407/.529 during a stretch of 28 games. In a lineup known for striking out, Hernandez has whiffed just 15 times during this hot streak.
Hernandez is now on pace to deliver a season of 14 homers, 70 RBIs, 77 runs scored, and 10 steals while hitting mostly from the bottom third of manager Gabe Kapler‘s batting order. He is hitting .310 with a .375 on-base percentage, trailing just Segura in the former category, tied with McCutchen for second on the team in the latter.
Defensively, this has not been a stellar season for Hernandez. He has already committed five errors, and anyone watching on a regular basis has seen him involved in at least a handful more misplays. He currently ranks just 13th in the big-leagues by Fangraphs at the second base position.
Hernandez is not a star, and he is not irreplaceable. His 2.5 WAR total among all those who have played at least 50% of the time as a big-league second baseman since last year’s All-Star Game ranks him just 19th in the game in that time. Over more than 2,800 career plate appearances he has just 36 homers and a .739 OPS.
Also, for someone who appears to possess the flat-out speed to do much more, he simply doesn’t steal enough. On top of that, Hernandez has committed a number of blunders as a baserunner to leave fans frequently cratching their heads or screaming out in all-caps on social media. He isn’t horrible, but man can he be frustrating with the glove and on the bases. A switch to the more talented Kingery at some point is going to be inevitable.
But that time is not now. Phillies fans, myself included, need to back off Hernandez. He is scratching out base hits, and in the process is helping the club to win ball games while also elevating his potential trade value. Whether such a deal happens this season or in the next off-season is irrelevant. For now, the only call from fans should be to ring out: “Hail, Cesar!”

Philadelphia Phillies 2016 Grades: Outfielders

There is probably a wide swath of the larger Philadelphia sports fan base who were not paying much attention to the Phillies during the month of September.

Unless you are, like myself, one of the hard cores who follows closely year ’round no matter the circumstances, you missed something significant and exciting.

That exciting and significant development was the somewhat unexpected promotion and insertion into the regular lineup of outfield prospect Roman Quinn following the conclusion of the minor league playoffs.

The 23-year old speedster has worked his way towards the top of the Fightin’ Phils batting order, producing four stolen bases and eight runs scored over his first 65 plate appearances over 14 games, 13 of those as a starter.
Those may not sound overly impressive at first blush. But extrapolated out over a full season at the top of the order, and we are talking about a likely base line of 40 stolen bases and 80 runs scored for the switch-hitter.
I’ve been harping the talents of Quinn for the past couple of years, so the fact that I am a fanboy is no surprise to anyone who follows.
He is also weighed down by a .226 batting average that is sure to increase by at least 50 points as he adjusts to the big league level. His on-base percentage of .349 is already acceptable.
But I believe that anyone who has watched his speed on the bases and that same speed as well as his throwing arm in the outfield now is well aware that I haven’t been selling a bill of goods. Quinn is the real deal, and he is the Phillies future in center field.
Quinn is one of seven Phils outfielders for whom I am going to provide a grade for their 2016 performance.

I’ll be leaving out a quartet of relatively inconsequential players who each received fewer than 100 plate appearances: Darin RufDavid LoughEmmanuel Burriss, and Cedric Hunter.
The seven who will receive grades are Quinn, Odubel HerreraPeter BourjosTyler GoeddelCody AscheAaron Altherr, and Jimmy Paredes. So let’s begin with the dispensing of their 2016 report card grades.
SEE ORIGINAL article at That Ball’s Outta Here for grading breakdown.

Looking Ahead to Phillies 2016 Outfield Mix

On April 6th, 2015 for Opening Day against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies starting outfield consisted of Ben Revere in left, Odubel Herrera in center, and Grady Sizemore in right field.
Six months later, on October 4th, the Phillies closed out the season hosting the Miami Marlins with a starting outfield of Darin Ruf in left, Aaron Altherr in center, and Jeff Francoeur in right field. During the game, Altherr slid over to left, and Herrera came on to play center field.
During the course of the 2015 season, Cody Asche started 61 games and played in 63 out in left field. 
With the trade of Revere to the Toronto Blue Jays at the July trade deadline, that made Asche, who began the year as the starting 3rd baseman, the player who had seen the most action at the left field position.
That 2015 outfield mix was a major change from the previous season. In 2014, the Phillies started Marlon Byrd in right field for 149 games, Revere in center for 141, and Domonic Brown in left field for 127 games.
Now as the club prepares to report for spring training in Clearwater in just three weeks, the outfield is again poised for significant changes. 
Gone are Byrd, Brown, Francoeur, Revere, and Sizemore. The outfield has been a disappointing mess for the Phillies at least since Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were dealt away at the 2012 trade deadline. 

The Phillies are going to be picked for last place in the National League East by every resource as those prognostications are released in the coming weeks. 
The Nationals and Mets are the clear favorites. The Marlins will get a healthy Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton back in their rotation and lineup.
While the Braves finished just four games ahead of the Phillies in the 2015 NL East standings, an evaluation of the two likely opening rosters still shows Atlanta with arguably better talent than the Phils will put out on the field. 
Even if you want to hope for a 4th place finish, it will still come with a record that is likely to be at least 20 games below the .500 mark.
One of the main reasons that the Phillies will not improve measurably this coming season, and may not for a couple more, is the state of that outfield. 
There are no players who are likely capable to hit even 20 home runs or steal 20 bases. Only Herrera appears capable of hitting in the .290-.300 range.
While Altherr finished out the 2015 season as the starting left fielder, there is a good chance that he will become the new everyday right fielder this coming season, with Herrera sliding over to left, and newcomer Peter Bourjos starting in center field.
That alignment would appear to upgrade the Phillies defensively, and that is an important part of the game to be sure. 
I am a huge proponent of defensive excellence contributing to a winning ball club. However, be honest: does a Herrera-Bourjos-Altherr outfield excite you in the long-term? Does that look like a postseason alignment to you?
Back in early December, manager Pete Mackanin was quoted by CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury regarding the 2016 outfield alignment: “We really have three centerfielders, no matter where they play.” 
He and GM Matt Klentak will watch the players perform in spring training before making any final plans.
However, it is clear that Mackanin realizes the offensive limitations of this group, and so will focus on improving the team defensively. 
Defense is a very important part of the game, and I’m very happy that we’ve got some outfielders that can cover a lot of ground and they are sure-handed outfielders,” Mackanin told Salisbury.
Both Asche and Ruf are likely to be back in the lineup mix, though Ruf is most likely to see his time as part of a platoon at 1st base with Ryan Howard
He is a defensive liability when used in left field, and his bat is only truly functional against left-handed pitching. 
Asche is a solid athlete, but is much more suited to a utility role, backing up in left field and at 3rd base.
The Phillies just signed former Orioles outfielder David Lough as insurance, and also selected former Rays prospect Tyler Goeddel with the top pick in the Rule 5 Draft. 
Both players will get a shot to show what they can do in the spring, and Goeddel will have to be kept in the big leagues all year, unless the Phils decide to return him or work out a deal with Tampa Bay.
Given health and anticipated production, the 2016 Phillies outfield is likely to be Herrera-Bourjos-Altherr, with Asche backing up in left, and Goeddel all across the outfield. 
We are likely to see Altherr play at least on both corners at one point or another, and Herrera will likely see some center field.
The wild card for the current group is Goeddel. The Phillies liked his potential enough to make him that top Rule 5 selection. 
It is possible that he could play himself into a much more significant role during spring training.
In the future, the real excitement will come from the minor leaguesNick Williams is the team’s #4 prospect, and is likely either the right or left fielder of the future. 
That future should begin for the 22-year old at some point in 2017, though he could push for a September call-up with a strong performance at Lehigh Valley.
Further down the line, 2015 top MLB Amateur Draft pick Cornelius Randolph is seen as a premium hitter who is likely to be a left fielder. That would mean Williams becomes the right fielder eventually. 
If spring training for the 2018 season doesn’t include Williams and Randolph as the likely starters in those roles, it has to be seen as a developmental disappointment for the club.
Of course, much of the future could also change based on the team spending money in free agency. 
As the young pitchers develop, and shortstop J.P. Crawford reaches the big leagues and develops as an infield compliment to Maikel Franco, ownership may decide that it’s time to open up the wallet and spend. 
Bryce Harper is due to become a free agent following the 2018 season, and Mike Trout after the 2020 campaign.
While Phillies fans can feel free to dream on those young, proven studs, the more immediately important and much more realistic situation is to sort out the options currently available. 
The team needs to find out if either or both of Altherr and/or Herrera is for real as a longer term option, and needs to get Williams to the big leagues. 

Cody Asche Should Not Be Sold to Phillies Fans as a Regular

The Philadelphia Phillies removed former highly touted outfielder Domonic Brownfrom the 40-man roster last week, ostensibly cutting ties with the player who was once considered the top prospect in all of baseball.
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.

Phillies 2015 Report Cards: Outfielders

After previously handing out grades to the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies infielders and catchers, it’s now the outfielders turn. 
The starting outfielders based on playing time this season were Ben RevereOdubel Herrera, and Jeff Francoeur, and there were 2-3 others who received substantive time.
Others receiving significant time included Cody Asche, who started 61 games in left field. 
Domonic Brown, who the club released just yesterday, appeared in 50 games in right field. 
Aaron Altherr appeared in 37 games spread across all three outfield positions. 
The Phillies also got 31 early season games from Grady Sizemore in left and right field.
When spring training in Clearwater began back in February, few would have predicted that the Rule 5 draftee Herrera or the supposedly washed-up free agent signee Francoeur would end up as regulars, let alone as fan favorites. But that is exactly what happened as the 2015 season developed.
Below you will find letter grades assigned to the first seven names mentioned above, making up all of the players who appeared in at least 30 games in the outfield for the 2015 Phillies.

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Grady Sizemore – F: it’s really hard to see why Ryne Sandberg kept writing the then-32 year old Sizemore’s name into the lineup during the months of April and May. 
Likely it was simply because the ill-fated skipper felt there were few proven options, with Herrera and Francoeur not yet having fully emerged, and with Revere as the only established, healthy, proven starter. 
Sizemore produced nothing in 104 plate appearances: a .245/.288/.296 slash line with no homers, six RBI, four runs scored, no stolen bases. 
He was released on June 1st, signed with the Tampa Bay Rays two weeks later, and actually produced well for the Rays over the season’s final three months. But again, with the Phillies he was nothing more than a complete waste of time.

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Aaron Altherr – C: some over-exuberant fans or evaluators may be tempted to give Altherr a higher grade. Let’s not get carried away. 
He will turn 25 years old in January, so he’s not exactly a kid. He also hit for a just a .241 average, and the right-handed batter amazingly performed much worse against lefty pitching, with a .180/.276/.360 slash line in 58 plate appearances against southpaws. 
He did produce five homers, 22 RBI, 25 runs, and six stolen bases in 161 total plate appearances. Multiply those production numbers by four to get a full season. 
If Altherr can actually produce those types of numbers, he can be a full-time big league starter, at least for the next few seasons as the Phillies roster continues to improve. 
He committed no errors, and generally fielded well no matter where he was placed in the outfield. 
Expect Altherr to enter spring training as a favorite to win a starting corner outfield spot. If he can figure out lefties, the Phils may have themselves a productive, dependable starter.
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Domonic Brown – F: never let it be said that I didn’t kick a man when he was down, at least when that man is someone who I have cringed at watching in a Phillies uniform as much as I have Dom Brown over the last few years. 
I already went over Brown’s disappointing performances over the last few years in yesterday’s piece following his removal from the Phillies 40-man roster. Let’s just focus here on what produces this grade, his 2015 performance. 
The season began with him on the DL, then with a .260 average and three homers in 248 minor league plate appearances. 
He certainly didn’t earn a promotion, but the Phils gave him one anyway. Back in the big leagues, Brown produced just a .228/.284/.349 slash line with five homers, 25 RBI, and 19 runs scored over 204 plate appearances. 
He committed just one official error, and did flash his strong arm with four outfield assists. 
But he continued a troubling lack of awareness of his place on the field at times, which directly ended his season and Phillies career in early September when he tumbled into the Citi Field stands, suffering a concussion. 
It was just more of the same disappointing failure time after time for Brown. Can you tell my feelings regarding his release? Good riddance.
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Cody Asche – D: let’s be honest here, Asche wasn’t much better in 2015 than Brown, if better at all. His passing grade is barely, and is really only given due to his versatility in reasonably covering two positions on defense. 
Asche had been the club’s starting 3rd baseman, but was moved to left field with the development of top rookie Maikel Franco
While no Gold Glover, the athletic Asche did show that he can handle the outfield, at least in a backup role. 
In 2015, Asche produced a disappointing .245/.294/.395 slash line that was very close to his overall career MLB numbers across more than 1,000 plate appearances. 
While he didn’t hit righties particularly well, he did show far greater power against them.
He will turn 26 years old right in the middle of next season, and looks like a backup player. 
Asche is going to need to show more, or as the overall roster improves he is going to find it harder and harder to keep a big league job, at least in Phillies pinstripes.
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Ben Revere – C: the speedy Revere had an almost identical season to his 2014 campaign, when you combine his full Phillies and Blue Jays numbers. 
With the Phils, he produced a .298/.334/.374 slash line with 24 stolen bases and 49 runs scored across 388 plate appearances prior to his July 31st trade to Toronto. 
Revere was with the Phillies what he is overall as a player: a speed threat. His speed allows him to beat out enough infield hits, and he makes enough contact, to keep his average around the .300 level. 
His ability to get on base and use his speed fit perfectly with the Jays’ power-laden lineup. With the Phillies, his skill set was basically being wasted. 
He will turn 28 years old in early May, and becomes arbitration eligible this coming off-season, so he would have begun to become an expensive, limited option. 
Defensively, Revere’s speed allowed him to run down some balls, and he was willing to give up his body for diving grabs. However, he also took questionable routes at times, and has a weak arm. 
The Phillies were able to get a pair of young arms for him. If either pans out in any way that helps them down the line, this should prove a deal that works out for both teams.
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Jeff Francoeur – C: it’s not that ‘Frenchy’ wasn’t a joy to watch for most of the season, he was. Especially during such an overall down season for the team. But we have to be reasonable about handing out grades. 
He produced a .258/.286/.433 slash line with 13 home runs and 45 RBI in 343 plate appearances. 
A few of those home runs were dramatic, coming at key moments, including to walkoff some of the Phillies few victories during the 2015 season. 
A former Gold Glover who was once a regular atop the NL outfield assists leaderboards, his still powerful arm produced some sensational throws. 
Heck, he even took the mound in a blowout, tossing two solid innings. 
He was also widely acknowledged to be a strong, positive influence in the clubhouse. 
However, Francoeur does turn 32 years old in January, and should not be considered a big piece of the future. 
He earned a return in the same role, at least for 2016: backup outfielder who will not embarrass himself or the team if needed as the regular right fielder at any point.
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Odubel Herrera – B: there is nothing to say about the fact that a Rule 5 draftee who had never played center field in his career became your starting center fielder than “amazing”, and that was Herrera for the 2015 Phillies. 
Easily the season’s most pleasant surprise, the rookie Herrera was voted the club’s top offensive player by the staff here at TBOH, and was also selected by the Phillies as the team Hank Aaron Award nominee. 
He will turn 24 years old at the end of December, and thus is young enough that, if he continues to develop, he can become a key piece to the rebuilding program. 
The player known affectionately as “El Torito” (the little bull) hit for a .297/.344/.418 slash line, producing eight homers, 30 doubles, 41 RBI, 64 runs scored, and 16 steals across 537 plate appearances. 
While he won’t win the award, Herrera should receive some votes in the upcoming NL Rookie of the Year voting. 
Frankly, I’m not sure of what the Phillies have here. Is he their future in center field? Maybe back at his more natural position of 2nd base? 
Will he be a regular, a bench player, or a flash-in-the-pan who fades into a footnote in Phillies history? I honestly believe that all of those remain possibilities at this point.
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OTHERS: Brian Bogusevic played 16 games in the Phillies outfield this season, receiving 13 starts in right field and one in left. 
Darin Ruf played 22 games, including 19 starts, in left field. We covered Ruf in our infield grades, where he started 43 and appeared in 66 at 1st base. 
Darnell Sweeney played 14 games in the outfield, starting 11 times in left. He also started eight games at 2nd base. 
Jordan Danks appeared in one early August game. None of these players received enough time to be able to give any a fair grade. Bogusevic was released from the 40-man roster along with Brown yesterday. However, it is believed that the club is interested in bringing him back, at least with AAA Lehigh Valley.
Towards the end of the season, manager Pete Mackanin was forced to bench Herrera due to an episode of pouting in which he also displayed a lack of hustle in a game against the Atlanta Braves. As reported by ESPN, Mackanin called Herrera out publicly after the outburst.
Boys play Little League and men play Major League Baseball. We will not pout, we will not feel sorry for ourselves. If you want to, then you don’t belong here. He had to learn a lesson. Lately he’s been showing his emotions a little bit more. We’re just not going to stand for it. He’s got to understand that it doesn’t work that way. I’m sure he’s going to understand.
No one wants or expects Herrera to play without emotion. He needs that aspect of his game, and it can bring energy to the entire team. 
However, he does need to grow and learn to harness those emotions, displaying them in a more positive way. 
If he can do so, his talent could allow him to become a player similar to what Shane Victorino became a decade ago.
The developement of the Phillies outfield, like the rest of the roster, will continue in 2016. You should expect to see Herrera featured prominently. 
If not, you can also expect to see a lot more of Altherr, Francoeur, and even Asche.