There's no doubt that while following all of the hubbub surrounding the Phillies' prospects games over these last few days, you sat there and thought, "I wonder what's going on with Cody Asche?" Oh, you didn't? Well, apologies if you've come looking for something else around these parts today.
It was easy enough to put this off until now, somewhat due in part to my own laziness, and somewhat due in part to the fact that I was waiting for Asche to play in an actual, tangible baseball game this spring. Because you probably didn't come here for the story about the former, we can now say with confidence that Asche never did end up suiting up for the Phillies this spring after all.
Yet in this strange world where Asche sort of had something to prove this spring, his spot on the 2016 team seems safe, mostly because Aaron Altherr likely won't see the field until July at the earliest. The Phillies will probably open the season with Peter Bourjos, Odubel Herrera, Tyler Goeddel, Will Venable and Cedric Hunter in the outfield. One look at that list and you can see why Asche will want to get healthy as soon as possible.
Asche's oblique has been bothering him since early in the spring, before games got underway. He re-injured himself while taking a swing in a minor league game a few weeks ago, and never officially picked up an AB in the Grapefruit League. As Maikel Franco cements himself at third base, it was an important spring for Asche, who would have liked to have gotten as much work in as possible at left field, and maybe even first base.
It's now unlikely that Asche is even available until late April or early May, but the depth chart odds are still in his favor.
The days of "the next Chase Utley" talk are now long behind us, and to be fair, those comparisons were, well, unfair in the first place. Asche has now appeared in 300 games in his Major League career, with a .246/.301/.392 line to his name, a tad off the pace many thought he'd be setting by this point.
Fangraphs has not been kind to him on the defensive side of the ball either, whether it is at third base or in left field, where the Phillies were hoping to mask some of his deficiencies defensively. He doesn't hit well on the road, or at home (he has just a .688 OPS at CBP in his career). He doesn't have a wild enough split to make him more valuable against a certain hand (career .703 OPS vs. righties, .652 vs. lefties). (For comparison's sake, Darin Ruf's career OPS against lefties is about 300 points (!) higher than against righties, and Ryan Howard 235 points higher against righties.
Where, exactly does that leave someone like Asche if you can't make an honest assessment and say "Well, at least he could be part of a platoon?" Likely, it lands him at the end of a Major League bench, the 24th or 25th man on the roster you give a few at-bats a week to keep his head in the game.
Asche is going to be 26 in June, and we're officially at the point where it's unclear as to what his role would be with this team in say, 2018, or what his position even is, or what he even does well. Yeah, we've hit a point where you can even say, "Geez, at least John Mayberry, Jr. (or insert similar player here) did something well."
So while Asche's place on the roster does seem safe for at least this season, the long-term game here is muddled at best. They simply aren't going to run a negative-WAR player out there for more than 150 at-bats a year, and Asche (and certainly new GM Matt Klentak) knows that. Maybe they wouldn't even run a player like that out there for a single at-bat.
Asche's .693 career OPS has been nothing to write home about. Want to know who had a career .692 OPS? Yes, former Phil Greg Dobbs. At this point, that seems to be the path Asche is on. He can play three positions, much like Dobbs could, and you hope he'd be able to pop one every now and again. There's some value in that player in the Majors I suppose if the defense was at least passable in left field, but would anyone be surprised if Asche isn't with the Phillies next spring? Probably not.
Cody Asche was never going to be Chase Utley. We'd all still wish he'd be a little more than Greg Dobbs.