Cody Asche: A Cautionary Tale
I was recently looking at Cody Asche’s minor league numbers, and I had forgotten how good he was in the minor leagues, especially before he was first called up in 2013. I may have forgotten this because Asche has struggled since that time, to a tune of a .242/.300/.390 slash line for his ML career. Manager Pete Mackanin has recently grown impatient with Asche saying that he “needs to step it up” as Aaron Atherr is also now competing for an outfield spot. It got me wondering why Asche has struggled so much after a very nice minor league career. Was he brought up too soon? Is he just not good enough? Let’s take a look at his numbers…
If we throw out his first year in short-season single A ball and his recent minor league at-bats, Cody Ache never had an OPS of under .825 at any stop in the minors. He hit over .300 at every stop except for his last AAA and that was .295. He never had an OBP of under .352. In other words, he was a great hitter. There was no noticeable dip at AAA where he no doubt faced pitchers who had major league experience. In Lehigh Valley he hit .295/.352/.485 with 15 home runs and 68 RBI.
Could it be the Phillies brought him up too quickly? Phillies fans have long accused the Phillies of letting their prospects stay in the minors too long, like with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Ache rose through the ranks very quickly, with a different minor league team each year. He only played in 432 minor league games, which is not a huge amount of time. Granted, it could be said he played himself out of the minors with his performance. In retrospect, though, maybe more time would have been better. Like a lot of the Phillies top prospects, Asche did not walk a lot, averaging .32 walks per game. In the majors, it has gone down to about .25 walks per game. He’s walking a little less, but hitting a lot less. My point is that if a prospect has not developed a good sense of the strike zone and plate discipline, when they face a higher level of pitching in the major leagues it can be a problem. With fewer hits, the player’s OBP will be even lower. With poor plate discipline, it makes playing more difficult for a young hitter as pitchers will exploit this weakness and give them few good pitches to hit.
The second possibility is that maybe Asche is just not good enough. There have been many, many players who can hit really well in the minor leagues, but not in the big leagues. It’s really hard to say, but the reason why this is a cautionary tale is because some of those prospects who are doing well now, may not do the same in the majors. In fact, it’s almost a guarantee. Also, some of those same prospects have poor plate discipline as well (see the last post). Fans have been clamoring for the team to bring some of them up, but maybe waiting wouldn’t be a bad idea. The Phillies need hitters who can get on base as they are last in ALL of major league baseball in team on-base percentage at a meager .295. This will be something the Phillies will have to address.