COMMENTARY | Though just a third-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988, Billy Ashley quickly became a "can't-miss" slugging prospect due to his prodigious power potential. Between 1990 and 1992, Ashley established himself as a big-time power threat in the minors by clubbing 68 homers.
In 1994, Ashley earned the Dodgers' Minor League Player of the Year honors and was named the MVP of the Pacific Coast League. These accolades led to cups of coffee with the big league club in 1992, 1993 and 1994.
Unfortunately, for the Dodgers, Ashley's minor-league power success never translated in The Show. In parts of six seasons with the Dodgers, Billy hit a putrid .231/.305/.394/.699 with just 25 total home runs. He couldn't hit, couldn't run the bases, and was a severe liability with the leather in both corner outfield spots.
Ashley posted a negative fWAR in four of his six seasons in Los Angeles and an OPS+ of just 91. What prevented him from achieving major-league success and becoming a sterling slugger? Plate discipline and command of the strike zone.
Ashley's career BB% was a quite solid 9.2% (granted, most of those walks came in just two seasons). However, Ashley failed to make contact a ludicrous amount of the time, whiffing in 34.3 percent of his career plate appearances. Most striking of all is that in his tenure with L.A., Ashley reached base safely 202 times and recorded 234 total bases while striking out 225 times over six seasons.
There were clear warning signs during his minor-league career prior to and after being called up the first time, which should have made him less of a "can't-miss" power prospect and more of a project and a prayer. Billy's 1992 minor-league campaign saw him OBP just .302 and strike out 153 times in 126 games.
Power potential has been king for quite some time, however, and its allure is powerful. This was certainly the case with Billy and the Dodgers, who gave him an opening-day start and a gig as a full-time player in 1995.
Billy Ashley's failure as a Dodger and as a major leaguer in general speaks to the volatility of any draft and the importance of being a complete player. While the former third-round pick was resigned to once appearing on the reality show Househusbands of Hollywood, the Dodgers' 62nd-round pick from that same 1988 draft -- Mike Piazza -- will soon be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at ChadMoriyama.com. You can find and follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
- Sports & Recreation
- Billy Ashley
- Los Angeles Dodgers