Philadelphia Phillies rookie third baseman Cody Asche has played well in his first 32 major league games, hitting .266/.316/.450 over 109 at-bats and coming up with some key hits. He will likely push past rookie eligibility limits down the stretch and won't be on prospect lists heading into 2014, but he is a key part of Philadelphia's future and needs more attention. So let's give him that right now as Tuesday's Prospect of the Day.
Cody Asche played college baseball at the University of Nebraska. He hit .290/.338/.411 as a part-timer with the Cornhuskers as a freshman in 2009, but in 2010 he took over as the regular third baseman, hitting a solid .311/.374/.522 in 52 games, knocking 10 homers. He continued to improve in 2011, hitting .327/.424/.639 with 12 homers and a decent 34/41 BB/K ratio in 54 games.
I saw him play for the Cornhuskers a couple of times that spring and wrote the following report:
The main guy who caught my eye was University of Nebraska third baseman Cody Asche. There wasn't a lot of pre-season hype about him, but he stood out. He's hitting .348/.443/.705 so far with nine homers and 18 doubles, 21 walks and 22 strikeouts in 132 at-bats. That's a great statline with the new metal bat, and he looks good in person, too.
He's a 6-2, 200 pound left-handed hitter, with a batting stance reminiscent of a young Alex Gordon, although he doesn't have Gordon's athleticism. Asche has some bat speed, controls the zone well, and hit a long home run off a mistake changeup from Kansas starter T.J. Walz. He's got a good arm and decent range, but his fielding percentage hovers around .900 and Big 12 observers think a move to first base will be necessary in the long run, which hurts his draft stock. Still, the bat is very interesting and he could get picked on the first day.
Asche ended up getting drafted by the Phillies in the fourth round, but his pro career got off to a terrible start with a poor .192/.273/.264 line for Williamsport in the New York-Penn League. He controlled the strike zone adequately, but he just didn't hit, and his status entering 2012 was uncertain. The Phillies used him at second base for Williamsport, which might have been part of the problem: perhaps he wasn't comfortable at second and it carried over to his hitting.
He made some adjustments to his swing in instructional league, performed well in spring training, and opened 2012 as the third baseman with High-A Clearwater in the Florida State League. He thrived, hitting .347/.378/.447 in 62 games. Promoted to Double-A Reading, he remained hot with a .300/.360/.513 mark in 68 games, knocking 10 homers. In addition to the greatly improved hitting, he sharpened up his defense at third base, cutting down errors while showing the range and arm strength to remain at the hot corner.
Moved up to Triple-A to open 2013, he hit .295/.352/.485 with 15 homers, 35 walks, and 95 strikeouts in 404 at-bats for Lehigh Valley before being promoted to the majors last month.
Asche is a 6-1, 180 pound left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, born June 30, 1990. He's not especially fast, but he's not a slug on the bases and stole 11 bases both this year and last. His range and arm play well at third base, and he's made huge gains in reliability compared to college: he could barely field .900 in the Big 12, but in pro ball he's been much more reliable, thanks to more polished footwork and simple experience. College fears that he would have to move to first base have proven unfounded, and so far the New York-Penn League experiment at second base hasn't been repeated.
Offensively, Asche shows his power when he pulls the ball. He's aggressive and doesn't draw a large number of walks, but he generally keeps his strikeouts under control. Aside from his bad summer at Williamsport, he's been effective at every level and his major league numbers thus far are exactly in line with expectation. He had some problems showing power against left-handed pitching in the minors, but as a lefty hitter he'll usually have the edge and, if necessary, could pair with a right-handed hitter as part of a platoon.
In time, I think Asche will be able to produce big league numbers very similar to what he's done in the minors: hit in the .270-.290 range with some power, and I'd expect his OBP and walk rates to gradually improve. He doesn't strike me as a dominator, but his combination of solid hitting and defensive ability at third base should give him a long career.