Spring Training hasn't even started yet, but the Phillies are (thankfully) already pumping out newsworthy on-field content.
According to CSNPhilly's Jim Salisbury, Cody Asche is already in Clearwater, at least three weeks ahead of time. What's more is that this is just the result of some logistical oversight or a mis-booked flight. Rather, it seems that Cody is actually a) supposed to be there and b) doing something noteworthy with his time. Salisbury reports that the noteworthy aspect of Asche's activities in Clearwater is that he seems to be learning a new position: left field.
Asche has never been regarded as a stellar defensive third baseman, so a move down the defensive spectrum might make him less of a liability defensively. From that perspective, it's not at all surprising that he is putting in time with minor league coaches to learn the position. Obviously, defense is only one side of the equation, though. The other side, offense, doesn't provide as solid a justification for moving Asche to a position that comes with greater offensive expectations. Over 613 Major League plate appearances, Asche has produced an OPS of .697 (94 OPS+). The league average OPS for a LF in 2014 was .723, compared to. 714 for third basemen, so unless Cody is an exceptional defender in left, he's unlikely to provide more on-field value to the Phillies there than at third.
Within the micro-economy of the Phillies, however, this decision to experiment with Asche in the outfield makes a lot of sense. Let me present you with two facts about the 2015 Phillies, as currently constructed:
- One of their top three prospects, Maikel Franco, plays third base and will be ready for the majors sooner rather than later. How soon he'll be ready is a matter of debate, but reasonable people estimate anytime between yesterday and mid-season.
- The outfielders currently on the Phillies active roster are, in rough order of ability: Ben Revere, Domonic Brown, Grady Sizemore, Odubel Herrera, Darin Ruf, Kelly Dugan, Jordan Danks, and Aaron Altherr.