Cody Asche can be a fun player to watch. Sometimes referred to as possessing some characteristics of teammate Chase Utley, Asche is seen as a player who plays the game hard, and does some nice things on the field. 2014 was Asche's first year as a starting third baseman in the major leagues. After one season the question is whether or not Asche did enough to be considered a starter. As the Phillies make changes and have another strong third baseman on the way, Asche may be asked to switch positions or play multiple positions.
Will Maikel Franco start at third base?
Franco could play first base, but Franco was ranked the best defensive third baseman in the International League in 2014. While it was not always the case, Franco's defense has surpassed Asche's defense. This does not mean that Asche will not have a role on the team if Franco is ready to start in the major leagues, but it may have to change.
Asche would be able to make a start at third base against a tough-righthanded pitcher, even if he made the team as an extra man. But, Asche may have to consider picking up some other positions to find playing time in the major leagues. With the team rebuilding, it may be in the team's best interest to start Franco at third base to get acclimated to the major leagues.
What does Chase Utley do?
Chase Utley may be the Phillies infielder to watch this offseason. Speculation has been growing that the Phillies may move Ryan Howard at all costs to help free up a position for some young players. The effect of this may be Chase Utley moving to first base. If Utley moves to first base then the second base position would open up.
The Phillies could hope to get some more out of Utley at second base and give Maikel Franco time at first base. But, Utley's production slowed down as the season went on, and the extra rest on his knees by playing first base could help prolong Utley's career, which the Phillies appear to be hell-bent on being only with them.
Will the Phillies consider moving Asche back to Second Base?
Asche tried once. It was not good. For those not away, Asche spent his first year in the Phillies' system at second base. Both offensively and defensively, Asche did not work there, Phuture Phillies wrote back in 2013:
After signing the Phillies sent Asche to Williamsport. His 2011 was a complete disaster at the plate and in the field. At the plate he hit .192/.273/.264 in 263 plate appearances. In the field the Phillies tried Asche at second base where his range and hands were a problem.
The Phillies could conceivably try again, but their conclusion after the first time Asche played second base was a resounding no.
How about left field?
The two names to keep an eye on here are Domonic Brown and Yasmani Tomas. It is unclear whether or not the Phillies have seen enough of Brown, who, despite a good six weeks in 2013 has been a major disappointment. Phillies interim President Pat Gillick always speaks highly of Brown when asked publicly. Of course, no one that might wish to get something in exchange for Brown would publicly state that he has deficiencies.
The Phillies reportedly are in on power-hitting outfielder Yasmani Tomas, a Cuban defector who was recently granted free agency. The price will be high, as Cuban players seem to be all the rage after success from outfielder Yasiel Puig and first baseman Jose Abreu. If the Phillies pony up the cash, that is one fewer open position.
The Phillies could look to move Marlon Byrd for a prospect, too, opening up right field. Darin Ruf figures to be part of the Phillies plans, too, but where is a bit unclear at this time.
Is Asche better as a utility player or starter?
All along, scouts felt that Asche's potential was best realized as a utility player. The Phillies have no left-handed bat off the bench signed for next season, and Asche could be that. If Asche can learn to play some outfield and maybe in a pinch some second base, there would most certainly be a spot for him on the team. It may come down to whether the Phillies are confident they have seen what Asche can do as a starter. 2014 was his only opportunity, and he responded with a .699 OPS from the plate. Asche had a WAR of 0.6.
The Phillies could use some improvement from Asche's 2014 season. As Todd Zolecki of MLB.com wrote today, there are no possibilities off the table for the Phillies this offseason. While we tend to think about what veterans could be moved, perhaps the Phillies trade from their position of strength (third base) to address another need. Asche's fate is still very much up in the air.