Phillies Stockpile Promising Young Third Basemen





PHILADELPHIA—Thin at third base for years, the Phillies feel like they have put together an intriguing group of prospects at the position in the lower levels. Perhaps one will grow to be the organization's first homegrown hot-corner regular since Scott Rolen.

Cody Asche is the latest to open eyes. Philadelphia's fourth-round pick out of Nebraska last June, he batted .364/.391/.471 with one homer through his first 121 at-bats for high Class A Clearwater.

"He's been consistent since day one of spring training," assistant general manager Benny Looper said. "He's really swinging it well and playing good third base. He runs well, and we think the power has a chance to come."

The lefty-hitting Asche has proven to be coachable. He hit just .192 in 68 games with short-season Williamsport last summer, and Looper said his bat looked dead. Some tutoring with the organization's hitting staff in instructional league added life to Asche's bat.

"He always had a nice swing, but he had trouble getting his bat started," Looper said. "He didn't have a load. Very few hitters can swing from a dead stop and have success. Our instructors did an outstanding job on helping him get the bat started."

Another possible factor in Asche's rise: He's back playing third base after playing second last summer as prospects Maikel Franco and Harold Martinez got most of the reps at third with Williamsport.

This season, Franco and Martinez play for low Class A Lakewood, where Franco mans third and Martinez, the team's second-round pick last year, added first base to his résumé after being slowed by a hand injury this spring.

The 19-year-old Franco batted .228/.295/.394 through his first 127 at-bats at Lakewood, and club officials believe he has excellent power potential.

A fifth-rounder last year, Mitch Walding moved from shortstop as a prep player in Stockton, Calif., to third base in the pro ranks. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound lefthanded hitter reportedly took to the switch in extended spring training.

PHIL-UPS

• Clearwater outfielder Anthony Hewitt, who has struggled since being drafted in the first round in 2008, batted .372/.413/.558 in his first 11 games in May, the best run of his career.

• Double-A Reading first baseman Darin Ruf, a 20th-round pick in 2009, continued his hot hitting in May, batting .383/.438/.594 through 128 at-bats to lead the Eastern League in average.