It's no secret that the Phillies have always liked Cody Asche; they still do. The problem is, that he simply hasn't shown enough offense to be able to lock himself into a spot with the ballclub, and now, with an influx of new faces who have more experience playing the outfield and the potential to outhit Asche, you have to wonder how long Asche is going to be able to stick in Philly.
Odubel Herrera is a lock to be in the outfield, and it appears that new Phillie Peter Bourjos is also likely to be in the lineup. Aaron Altherr showed a lot of promise last season and the team also has Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel, who they hope to be able to keep on the roster. Waiting in the wings are Nick Williams and Roman Quinn, who are going to be opening the season at Lehigh Valley, or in Quinn's case, possibly Reading. Further away is Dylan Cozens.
Asche had a slash-line of 12-39-.245/.294/.395 last season, his second full season in the majors. In his two full seasons, he's hit just .248 with an on-base percentage just over the .300 mark and has hit 22 home runs. Needless to say, the Phillies have expected more out of the former third baseman.
"Cody has not, actually, lived up to his potential, we think he's a better hitter than he's shown," said manager Pete Mackanin recently. In the long run, he's going to have to hit more than he's shown in order to play in the corner outfield. I think he's capable of doing that, I just hope I can get him enough playing time to show that he can do that."
In the minors, Asche hit .291 over five seasons and that's more the type of number that the Phillies were hoping to see from him, although his power numbers are acceptable. The 25-year old has average one home run for every 39.6 plate appearances in the majors and averaged one every 41.2 plate appearances in the minors. While the added power is good, the Phillies can't afford to see his average drop off as much as it has since coming to Philadelphia.
This season, the emergence of Herrera and the addition of Bourjos, not to mention the Phillies desire to keep Goeddel around long-term, are putting pressure on Asche to secure a roster spot. Asche is a bit behind the eight-ball too, because most of his competition has something he doesn't, and isn't likely to develop; speed.
"Bourjos has been an outstanding center fielder in his career, defensively, we think he's going to hit more, I think he's going to hit more than he has in the last few years. On the other hand, Odubel Herrera impressed me an awful lot; I really liked how he played center field after the first couple of weeks where he made some blunders, he really looked good out there," said Mackanin. "I know that Altherr is outstanding in that position, and then, you've got Roman Quinn lurking in the shadows somewhere and this guy is ready to make a name for himself. We have Williams as a corner guy, we've got this Goeddel that we got in the Rule 5 that we like an awful lot, I haven't seen him play and I'm anxious to see him, so we're in a good situation where we have a lot of good looking outfielders.
"Getting back to Cody, I'm going to try to give Cody as much of a chance to play out there as I can. He's going to have to hit better and hit for more power."
It will be interesting to see how Asche is used in spring training. He does have the ability to play third base, which could be a key to him at least winning a roster spot with the club, because there aren't a lot of other great options for third base backups, but Andres Blanco can play there, if needed. It's important to note, that Asche does still have one option remaining, so he could be sent to Lehigh Valley to play on an everyday basis, should the Phillies decide that's the route they prefer to take.