Cody Asche came out of the gates on fire on Opening Day, smashing a home run, driving in two and scoring four times in the Phillies’ 14-10 win over Texas.
Asche has now been in the league for 52 games—a little less than a third of a full season. It is time to start looking at his numbers and thinking about him less as a serviceable player, and more as a future All-Star.
It’s a bold statement, of course, but it is steeped in reason. Based on what we have seen from the 23-year old Asche, there is no reason he should not be able to put up a consistent 25/90/.285 line as his career progresses into its prime.
Think about what Cody Asche is. He is 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and is lean with good speed. He bats left handed, has a short swing, hits line drives, plays hard, and has broken into the big leagues at 23 years of age as a third basemen.
Where have we seen this before?
Before you go up in arms, I am not comparing Asche to Chase Utley. Well, in a way I am, but I’m definitely not saying Asche is going to be Chase Utley. Utley is an All-Star, World Series winner and has a list of other various accolades that prove how good of a hitter he was and still is.
What I am doing is looking at a player, who in almost every way plays a similar style of game to Utley, who is a teammate of Utley, and who more than likely gets advice from Utley, and recognizing that, based on his early ML performance, absolutely has the potential to follow in his footsteps.
Through Wednesday, Asche has recorded 170 big league at bats in his 52 games. In those at bats, he has six home runs, 24 RBI, nine doubles, a triple and has hit .247. Not terribly impressive numbers at first glance, but let’s break it down a little.
Triple those numbers as if he played 156 games in a season. Now you are looking at 18 homers and 72 RBI, prorated. In fact, if you look at his 2013 season as a whole, with half the season in Triple-A and half with the Phillies, Asche actually had a line of 20/90/.277 with 32 doubles and 12 stolen bases. Granted, Triple-A is not the majors, but it is still fairly impressive.
For comparison, Utley had a .234 average, three home runs, 30 RBI, 10 doubles and a triple through the first 166 at bats of his career. The numbers are nearly identical, and Asche is a year younger than Utley was at the time. Utley’s breakout season came in 2005 at age 26—his first full season in the big leagues. Asche will likely have three full seasons of playing every day before he reaches that age, and more than twice as many at bats.
There are other statistical factors that lead one to believe Asche could be a real offensive threat. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is .297 as a Major League player. To show comparison, Jimmy Rollins’ career BABIP is .295, and it was .303 in 2007 when he won the MVP Award. That shows Asche is not getting cheap hits, he is lining the ball hard.
Some people worry about Asche’s fielding (16 total errors last year, and a .959 fielding percentage both at Triple-A and with the Phillies), but if you can hit, there will be a spot in the lineup. Remember, Utley was once a third base prospect who moved to second, only to make 15 errors in his first full season.
Statistics are statistics. They tell you what has happened, not what is going to happen. But in baseball, a lot of times patterns hold fairly true. What is there not to like about the start Asche has had to his career? What is there to make one think he cannot be an All-Star caliber player? In addition, he is learning from the very player who he is modeled after. How often does a player get that chance? We’ve seen how veteran stars can transform young players (i.e. Roy Halladay and Kyle Kendrick).
The signs are there for a solid career, now we just have to wait and see.