After hitting just .192 in his first pro season, Cody Asche batted well over .300 the next two years in the minors. (USA Today Images)
One of the Phillies’ most celebrated prospects has arrived.
While he didn’t start at third base on Tuesday night against the Giants — manager Charlie Manuel said he will likely start on Wednesday — Cody Asche was called up in a move that many believe foreshadows the end of Michael Young’s time with the Phillies.
Since being drafted in the fourth round in 2011 out of the University of Nebraska, Asche has experienced his fair share of ups and downs.
And considering the way his career started, it’s surprising he was called up this quickly.
“Yeah, I mean it [the promotion] does seem fast,” Asche said. “I was talking to my buddy (Asche’s Williamsport roommate Mike Nesseth), he called me on the way up here and we were reminiscing on the way up.”
Asche’s professional career began in the New York-Penn League with Single-A Williamsport, but his production was underwhelming. In 68 games with the Crosscutters, Asche batted .192 in 238 plate appearances.
But he quickly turned a corner offensively.
Thanks to adjustments made to his swing during the Florida Instructional League in the fall of 2011, Asche stood out in spring training and then again in minor-league action.
Asche shined with Clearwater in 2012, when he boasted a .349 average and 25 RBIs and sustained that production when promoted to Double-A Reading. There, he batted .300 while slugging .513.
It’s all been about opportunity for Asche, who noted that with steadier reps came stronger numbers.
“There’s definitely been a gradual increase in consistency," Asche said.
“Early in the year I wasn’t having consistent at-bats like I needed to. It just comes with experience I guess, and comfort. I think the numbers came with consistency and the comfort.”
This season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Asche compiled 446 plate appearances in 104 games and led the team with 68 RBIs at the time of his call-up. Asche homered twice in the IronPigs’ 9-1 victory Monday night, raising his season total to 15.
Manuel likes what he sees from Asche, a left-handed bat with an improving glove.
“He’s a line-drive hitter,” Manuel said. “He’s got power, gets the ball up in the air, and I think from what I saw [in spring training] he was very adequate at third base.”
The 23-year-old projects as the Phillies' third baseman over the remaining two months of the season, but Manuel reiterated that Young will play both first and third base should he stay with the club through Wednesday’s deadline.
Asche’s quick rise is especially surprising when you consider whom the Phillies drafted ahead of him.
The second third baseman the Phillies took in 2011, Asche played second fiddle to second-round pick Harold Martinez out of the University of Miami.
Martinez has been unable to enjoy the same success as Asche and is currently hitting just .239 with a .277 on-base percentage in his second season with Clearwater.
The real threat to Asche is Maikel Franco, the 20-year-old third baseman whose red-hot bat has turned heads. Franco is batting .374 with a .986 OPS since making the move to Reading earlier this year.
So when Franco is eventually called up, will Asche be willing to switch positions?
“If it’s asked of me, I think probably we could figure something out," Asche said.