It’s no secret that the Phillies are on the look out for a third baseman of the future. Placido Polanco’s contract is up at the end of the season and he really has not hit much since April of last year. He still can field with the best of them at the hot corner but at 36 years old and injury prone it is highly unlikely that General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will extend him for another season.
If it is not Polanco next year at third will the Phillies look outside the organization for a third baseman or does someone exist within the organization who can project as a major league prospect at third base? A story was going around last week that Ruben has ordered his staff to start compiling a list of potential third basemen who might be available for next year. Ruben figures to find an experience veteran to fill the hot corner if Polly walks or retires. The Phillies really do not have a major league every day third base prospect at AAA or AA. However they just may have a young prospect for third at high A who is quickly emerging at the hot corner in the Florida State League where he is currently third in the league in hitting at .340.
For most of the games this season Cody Asche has been starting at third base for the Clearwater Threshers. This is a position he played last year in college for the Nebraska Cornhuskers before being drafted with the 151st pick by the Phillies. He was then sent to Williamsport where the Phillies tried to make him into a second baseman. He hit only .192 with two home runs while making the transition. Now, back at third base full time he has blossomed quickly this spring into a major league prospect at the hot corner.
When I watch young players in a baseball game I always say to myself who does that player remind me of ? I guess I am a lot like Washington Nationals Manager Davey Johnson in that regard. Old Davey reportedly said that Bryce Harper reminds him of Mickey Mantle. Well if Harper reminds Davey Johnson of the Mick, then Cody Asche reminds me of a young Chase Utley, about the same height and build and he hits from the left side. I like Cody Asche swing and at 21 years of age his swing will only get better.
After each game I have seen Cody play this season he has looked better and better with the bat. Over his last 10 games he is hitting .421 for the Threshers. Though he has yet to hit a home run he has shown straight away power as a left-handed hitter who can hit to all fields . I have seen him drive two balls to center, including one in Monday night’s game against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, that were caught just in front of the .401 sign at Bright House. Every ball he hit on Monday night was squared up and hit hard including a single that deflected off the glove of the Stone Crab pitcher who nearly was struck in the face by Cody’s line drive. In an earlier at bat he pulled a ground ball bullet down the first base line that was stabbed by the Stone Crab’s first baseman but it was hit hard enough to drive in the first Thresher run of the game on a fielder’s choice as they went on to win the game 6-5.
What has impressed me more than Asche’s bat has been his fielding. If you read the scouting reports they say he has “an average arm, lacks soft hands and does not have quick feet”. Another scouting report questioned whether he has the lateral range to play third base in the major leagues. In Monday night’s game he proved all these reports wrong. In the fourth inning he laid out and fielded a sharply hit grounder into the hole between third and short. He gathered himself up and threw a strike to first to get the runner by a half a step. Then in the eight inning he went to his right toward the third base line to make a nice pick up on another hard hit ground ball and make another strong accurate throw to first just ahead of the runner. Those two plays showed me that Asche can play third base at the highest level in any league.
After watching Cody Asche play third this season for the Threshers I am convinced he is ready to move up to Reading to be the everyday third baseman at AA. The Phillies clearly have a need for a young third base prospect of the future and Cody Asche has just pushed himself to the head of the class after Monday night’s game in Clearwater.