As soon as Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. saw that Cody Asche had suffered an apparent right hamstring injury while rounding first base an alternative likely popped into his mind. If his rookie third baseman was to be out for any significant period of time another young ‘hot corner’ prospect might take his place.
Because this season won’t extend into October, Amaro felt justified in installing Ryne Sandberg as an interim manager. He’s also given his new skipper the right to experiment with a variety of players down the stretch, which makes sense on many levels.
Amaro signed veteran infielder Michael Young to handle third base duties this season. Hardly a long-term option, everyone knew his plan was purely a one-year stopgap, which also makes the emergence of two young farmhands so important.
Asche started slowly during his first professional season in 2011. But after that low Single-A entrance song he excelled in higher A-ball and in Double-A last season. His performance in 104 Triple-A games this season was good enough to warrant an extended look in Philadelphia that began in late July.
The 23-year-old has a major league-ready glove and has gotten comfortable at the plate within the past few weeks. His 2013 debut easily puts him in the running to start at third next season.
Despite a variety of trades that Amaro has made over the years, the Phillies’ farm system still has depth. That statement is backed by the presence of Maikel Franco who has hit a combined 30 home runs at Single-A and Double-A this season. This power hitter’s modest strikeout percentage also stands out in every digital dimension.
Originally drafted at 17, the Dominican Republic native first appeared in rookie league ball in 2010. After making progress during the next two seasons, Franco’s 2013 voice can’t be silenced. His recent shift to first base also underscores the organization’s feelings about his talent level.
It will be interesting to see if the organization offers Franco the proverbial ‘cup of coffee’ within the next week, because the Phillies are heading into their first September since 2002 where postseason considerations aren’t a factor.
Asche and Franco surely offer Amaro a pleasant dilemma, or the ability to permanently shift one of their projected major league positions, in the very near future.
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