Phillies’ Handling of Cody Asche Was Best For Team


The Philadelphia Phillies sent Cody Asche to Triple-A to learn left field after Monday’s loss to the Pirates. While the move surprised some, including Asche, it made sense for the Phillies. There has been debate about whether or not the Phillies did Asche a disservice with the demotion. The hot-takes are in, with little insight provided in the majority of them, which is why I am going to explain why the Phillies did not do a disservice to Asche.

The Phillies originally flirted with the idea of moving Cody Asche to the outfield this past offseason. The idea makes sense from an organizational standpoint because of the fact that Maikel Franco—who plays third base—is their third ranked prospect. Last year, Franco had a cup of coffee in the majors with little success. That truly doesn’t matter, and shouldn’t play into this equation at all.

The Phillies had several scenarios that forced their hand with Asche not playing left field this spring. The first scenario is that Franco wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster. I really don’t want to hear the argument that he had a fair shot—he didn’t. Service time is an absolute factor in the decision-making process with prospects, especially coveted prospects. While Franco is not Kris Bryant, the same rules applies. By keeping him in the minors longer, his free-agency clock was set back. If the Phillies believe that Franco is a future starter, which they do, it makes sense to gain an extra year of control on your asset.

The second issue was the backlog of outfielders the Phillies sent to Spring Training. The Phillies sent Ben Revere, Odubel Herrera, Darin Ruf, Dom Brown, Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francoeur to Spring Training this past season. Each of these players was in competition for a starting spot in the Phillies outfield. Revere was a bad defender in center field, so the Phillies moved him to left field. Odubel Herrera was selected by the Phillies in the Rule-5 draft with no true position. Dom Brown didn’t perform to expected standards in 2014, but before getting hurt was expected to compete for a spot. That’s three of the six in question already. Add in that Philadelphia is still trying to figure out Darin Ruf and the situation gets hazier. Then throw in Sizemore and Francoeur, who are both veterans and competing for roster spots, and it makes sense that the Phillies didn’t want to add Asche into the equation a few months ago.

This means the Phillies would have added a seventh outfielder to their Spring Training rotation. That number is just far too high. Sure, they play split squad and all, but Asche would need to be in left more than third base to adjust to the position. Bouncing between third and left just is not ideal. Asche is not Ben Zobrist.

The final reason that Asche wasn’t going to remain at third-base was his pedestrian start at the plate. My favorite part of the MLB season is the first few weeks when everyone fails to understand small sample sizes and thinks that players are going to breakout or just suck. Sometimes it ends up being the case, but to think that Asche would finish with a .301 batting average is just ridiculous. No one looked at his .364 BABIP, which was .049 points higher than his 2014 total. Now, BABIP can jump with luck and a better line-drive rate—which Asche has—but it is hard to buy him as a .300 hitter. This year, the average major league third-baseman has a .735 OPS. As of today, Asche has a .632 OPS. That is significantly below the major league average.

While Maikel Franco may not finish with an OPS greater than .735, he is the future third-baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. Franco is also forcing Ruben Amaro’s hand with his current production in Triple-A. Franco currently owns a .906 OPS through his first 31 games for the Lehigh Valley Irons Pigs. It is hard ignore that type of production for one of your top prospects. The club doesn’t need a spark because they aren’t good, but the Phillies need Franco to see major league pitching. While reports say Franco has improved with his plate discipline, his .018 batting average to on-base split would say otherwise. Franco needs to see and adjust to major league pitching because it appears that minor league pitching isn’t doing the trick.

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Now, the Phillies did not do a disservice to Asche. At the plate, Asche is league-average at best. Somehow he receives comparisons to Chase Utley—which is insane. Not only was Asche below-average offensively at third base, but he will be in left field, too. The average ML left-fielder has a .707 OPS this season. Asche still isn’t close to that—which is a concern. Even if Asche breaks his slump and finishes similar to last year—he still would be below-average.

The defense is the other concern with this current situation. At third base, Asche’s -3 defensive runs saved doesn’t help his overall value. For his career, Asche has played 1,548.1 innings at third base and is -13 defensive runs saved. That isn’t going to hold up well.

Even in terms of wins above replacement, Asche was .5-WAR last year. That is replacement level. The Phillies did not get much out of him, and I don’t find that surprising. For his career, Asche has played 201 major league games with 726 plate appearances. In that sample, Asche has a .247/.303/.383 slash line, and is just .4-WAR. That is far from ideal for a major-league third-baseman. For comparison sake—Ben Revere has a career .289/.322/.341 slash line. That is just a .023 point difference between Revere and Asche. It is time to stop giving Asche so much credit because of these drawn up comparisons.

The Phillies did not make a mistake in this Asche-Franco situation. Asche is a below-average third-baseman on both offense and defense. The Phillies also had a backlog of outfielders in Spring Training and knew that Franco wouldn’t start the year with the Phillies. There isn’t a lot of value in moving Asche between third base and left field. The Phillies committed to Asche at third to start the year, and now he is going to be a full-time left-fielder. It is the right, full-time commitment and will actually help Asche because he won’t be worrying about being a utility player in the middle of a season. Oh, and this demotion may help him at the plate. He hit just .121 in the month of May with 15 strikeouts to one walk. It’s time for Franco to be the Philadelphia Phillies third-baseman and Asche to attempt to settle into another position.

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