The Philadelphia Phillies need a long-term third baseman solution. If the organization has determined that one of its prospects will soon be ready for his major league break, a one-year infield fix seems likely to be put in place during this offseason.
Future third baseman seen in Reading?
Cody Asche split the 2012 season between the Single-A Clearwater Threshers and the Double-A Reading Phillies. The 22-year-old, left-handed hitter produced a combined .324 batting average, .849 OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) mark, 12 home runs, 72 RBI's, 73 runs scored and 11 stolen bases at both minor league levels this season. The second-year professional's combined .941 fielding percentage obviously shows room for improvement.
It was easy to keep my eye on Asche (pronounced ash - she) as the summer played out, because this young man looks like a gritty ballplayer. However, many seasoned baseball professionals, including former Phillies' minor league manager and instructor Bill Dancy, taught me that each minor league season needs to be seen in its proper perspective. He was just one of the people who I was fortunate to have known when I worked in the Phillies' minor league front office in Scranton, Pennsylvania at the start of my career.
Expectations and reality
In the mid-1980s, Rick Schu was considered by some to be the heir apparent to Mike Schmidt. The 23-year-old started 110 games at third base in 1985, but didn't live up to expectations.
In March 1988, Schu and another highly-touted prospect, Jeff Stone (along with Keith Hughes), were sent in the same package deal to the Baltimore Orioles for Mike Young and Frank Bellino. Schu and Stone both returned, via free agency, to the Phillies' farm system in the early 1990s.
Hardcore baseball fans know that a mid-1980s infield experiment, or the names mentioned in this section, aren't meant as an exact comparison to these modern times. What's important is that the Phillies don't know how Asche will perform at the Triple-A level next season, or if he's capable of wearing a major league third baseman's glove in the relatively near future.
Everyone can see that this prospect made progress at two minor league levels this year. That's why obtaining a 2013 stop-gap option for third base in the offseason could make sense.
Considering all baseball opinions
General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., advisers like Dallas Green, Pat Gillick and Ed Wade, minor league managers, coaches and a variety of scouts in the organization all combine to make decisions about players like Asche. As with any business that involves projections about human potential, "educated guesses" help to form the facts.
Because Asche has done well, his potential could be leveraged in a deal for another prospect. He could also be used in a package that lands a proven third baseman. If the Phillies believe that this specific player can become the next big red piece in their infield puzzle, they will move forward with that significant assumption in mind.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies' farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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