Tag Archives: Cody Asche

Can the Phillies expect much from Andrew McCutchen in 2020?

There is an old saying that goes something like “Father Time is undefeated.” It’s not actually true, as athletes such as Gordie Howe, Tom Brady, Roger Federer, Brett Favre, and Jack Nicklaus have proven. Baseball has seen the old man taken down by the likes of Randy Johnson, Bartolo Colon, and Jamie Moyer.

But in the overwhelming majority of his battles with professional athletes, Father Time will indeed come out victorious. Professional athletics is a young man’s game. As players push into and through their 30’s, without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) it is usually impossible for most to keep up for very long with newly arriving, talented youngsters.

In his 20’s, Andrew McCutchen was one of the best baseball players on the planet. He was the first round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2005 MLB Draft at 11th overall out of a Florida high school. Four years later he broke into the big-leagues in 2009 at age 22, finishing fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.

For five straight years from 2011-15, McCutchen was an NL All-Star. In 2012 he won the NL Gold Glove Award for center fielders and took home the first of what would become four consecutive NL Silver Slugger Awards. For that performance he finished third in the NL MVP voting.

In 2013, McCutchen was the National League Most Valuable Player, leading the Pirates to the postseason for the first time in more than two decades. He would finish third in that MVP voting once again in 2014 and fifth in 2015.

McCutchen wrapped up his Pittsburgh run with a pair of seasons in 2016-17 that were still solid, but a notch below his MVP-caliber campaigns, and the Pirates dropped out of contender status.

In January 2018 the Pirates traded away their former superstar to the San Francisco Giants. He would move across the country to play with a new team at age 31.

McCutchen was clearly slowed down in the City by the Bay, and was forced to slide over from center to right field. His time in San Francisco wouldn’t last long. With the Giants out of contention he was dealt at the August 31 waiver deadline to the New York Yankees.

In the off-season, McCutchen became a free agent for the first time in his career. The Phillies inked him to a three-year deal on December 12, 2018 and penned him into the starting lineup as their new left fielder, allowing Rhys Hoskins to return to his natural position at first base.

Left field had become a revolving door position over the prior half-decade for the Phillies with Aaron Altherr, Cody Asche, Tyler Goeddel, and Domonic Brown all taking a turn as the starter at various times. While they knew McCutchen was no longer an MVP-caliber player, it was expected that he would provide veteran leadership and hold down the position for a few seasons.

The Phillies went to San Diego in early June in the midst of a west coast road trip with the club in first place in the National League East Division at 33-27. McCutchen was providing not only that leadership but also producing solid offensive numbers with 10 homers, 12 doubles, 29 RBIs, and 45 runs scored.

At that point, McCutchen had filled the role as Gabe Kapler‘s leadoff man perfectly. In fact, he was tops among all leadoff men in Major League Baseball in runs and walks, ranking fifth in on-base percentage and extra-base hits.

Then it all came to an end on what seemed like such an innocent play. McCutchen led off the June 2 opening game in San Diego with a walk. He was on first base when new shortstop Jean Segura popped up to second base. Segura slipped coming out of the batter’s box, and when he regained his footing did not run hard to first base.

The Padres second baseman was veteran Ian Kinsler, who noticed that Segura was not running hard. He decided to let the ball fall to the ground and try for a double play. McCutchen had stayed close to first base, assuming the pop-up would be caught. He suddenly had to run hard for second base, and was caught in a rundown. During the course of that rundown he twisted his knee and crumpled to the ground.

It would turn out that McCutchen had suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. He would miss the remainder of the season.

As the Phillies slumped out of the division lead over the next few weeks, Hoskins was quoted by Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer on the loss of McCutchen: “This guy does more for this clubhouse than maybe he even knows. He’s a presence in this lineup, a presence on the team and the field.

In mid-June, McCutchen underwent surgery to repair a medial meniscus and reconstruct the ACL in his left knee.

It has been a long, arduous process, but McCutchen’s rehab seems to be going well. He was quoted by John Perrotto of Forbes in early December:

There were so many times I tried to sit back and cry about it, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I knew I had to stay positive, concentrate on my rehab and come back strong. I feel great. I’m already looking forward to spring training.

From 2017-19 in his ages 30-32 seasons, McCutchen slashed a cumulative .265/.368/.455 and his production over a full season of 162 games would have averaged out to 26 home runs, 32 doubles, 80 RBIs, 98 runs, and 12 stolen bases.

However, the Phillies cannot expect to get 162 games out of McCutchen at age 33, especially coming off major reconstructive knee surgery. In fact, a best-case scenario for the club might involve a left field platoon with the right-handed bat of McCutchen and the lefty-hitting Jay Bruce.

McCutchen is a better defensive player at this point in their careers than Bruce, who will also turn 33 years of age at the start of April. So, while we wouldn’t be talking about a full platoon, Bruce could get 1-2 starts per week on average. Such an arrangement could keep both veterans healthy while maximizing their production.

On Christmas Eve, he and wife Maria welcomed their second child to the world with the birth of Armani X McCutchen. With a new addition to the family and an improving  physical condition, McCutchen is enthusiastic at this point and looking forward to helping the Phillies take a step forward in 2020.

The Phillies are hoping to actually contend over the entire season this time around, pushing for their first playoff berth in nine years. Getting a healthy, productive season from McCutchen would be just one of a number of things that need to go right with the club in order for that to happen.

 

MORE RECENT PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CONTENT:

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.