First things first: Yeison Asencio clearly does not figure into the Padres' plans for 2015. This much was apparent even before general manager A.J. Preller took the baseball world by storm in acquiring Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton. Despite a solid season split between the AA San Antonio Missions and the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas, Asencio was deemed unworthy of a spot on the 40-man roster and was designated for assignment in late November. He cleared waivers and was outrighted to El Paso, where he'll spend his first full AAA season, barring a trade or some other unforeseen circumstances.
In just about any other era of Padres baseball, Yeison Asencio would have an outside shot at making the team with a strong showing in spring training. This is not to say that Asencio is ready for the bigs and being blocked, just that there have been a lot of years when someone who wasn't ready to play in the majors ended up doing just that. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for Friars fans, 2015 is not one of those years.
Even though his 2014 season wasn't enough to earn a spot on anyone's 40-man roster, he did put together better-than-average offensive numbers at both levels, and showed some encouraging signs of growth. His season stats are in line with his career numbers despite an early slump that he spent the first two months of the season climbing out of. This is readily evident when looking at his day-by-day batting average.
The vertical blue line marks the date of Asencio's promotion to El Paso, with the red line representing his BA in AAA alone. His strong start there, which will be covered in more detail later in this post, gave him a slight uptick in his overall numbers, which you can see above in his black-line batting average above, as well as in his on-base percentage.
Around the halfway point of his season, Asencio's OBP synched up with his BA, each rising slightly at the same rate. He collected more walks in the second half, but not at the expense of hits. That his walk rate increased as his batting average did the same suggests that it was a result of better pitch selection as opposed to a more timid approach. While his lack of patience leaves much to be desired, he seems to be trudging ever-so-slightly in the right direction.
|# of games||BA||OBP||Diff.|
During Asencio's early-season travails, he racked up strikeouts at a much higher rate than usual and fell into a rut during which he was seemingly incapable of taking a base on balls. Once he settled in and began hitting, his strikeouts became fewer and farther between, and his free trips to first came more frequently. Or possibly I've transposed the chicken and the egg. Either way, the improvements went hand-in-hand.
|# of games||K%||BB%|
His strikeout rate of 11.7% in AA was considerably better than the Texas League average of 20.1%; his 10.5% mark in El Paso was also far better than the PCL's overall 19.9% rate. However, his tendency to walk paled in comparison to league averages; he walked 4.9% of the time in AA, and 4.7% of the time with the Chihuahuas, both well short of the 8.7% which was the average in each league. This explains why his OBP in San Antonio was just .001 higher than the league average of .322, despite his BA being .034 points above the league average.
On the other hand, Asencio's SLG in AA was .036 points better than the Texas League average of .373. His AAA numbers in both regards were well above the Pacific Coast League averages, but his hot streak in a small sample size renders that all but moot.
Asencio's power game took even longer to warm up than his singles stroke. He started the season with exactly 100 homerless plate appearances before he broke the seal on May 5, in his twenty-eighth game. His slow start really bogged down his season stats; his overall numbers look far more impressive if you pretend his season started that day.
|First 100 PA||27||100||95||6||19||2||0||0||3||5||5.0||19||19.0||.200||.240||.221|
He finished May strong and began June accordingly before he fell into an even longer No Homers Club streak. Asencio played 33 games between his sixth and seventh home runs of the season, from June 13 through July 22. He did hit nine doubles in that span -- including three in one game, on July 11 -- as opposed to the two he hit before his first homer, so his SLG and ISO (isolated power; the difference between one's BA and SLG, expressing how many extra bases he earns per at-bat) only suffered minimally. Following that power outage, Yeison kept hitting until season's end, improving his rate stats across the board.
After his second home run drought ended and he put things together, Asencio's SLG continued to climb even as his BA normalized.
|# of games||BA||SLG||ISO|
The large rise between his hundredth and hundred-twenty-fifth game was aided dually by the end of his homer-free streak and by the tear he got off to immediately after being promoted to AAA. Asencio got the call to report to El Paso on August 11 to take the place of Rymer Liriano, who received his first big league call-up. Yeison singled two times in as many at-bats in his Chihuahuas debut, then added a double, a homer, and another single the next day, in his first start for the club. He homered and singled yet again in his third game before "only" singling in each of his next three games. Asencio's streak of games without an extra-base hit reached nine before he doubled on August 24, but he righted ship and closed out the season on a very strong note. In the final six games of the Chihuahuas' season, Asencio went 12-for-25 (.480 BA) with two doubles and three home runs (.920 SLG).
|AA (117 G)||.284||.409||.125|
|AAA (21 G)||.333||.568||.235|
Even with his two long homerless streaks, Asencio still had a better-than-average ISO when he closed the book on his AA season. His .125 mark in San Antonio edged out the Texas League average of .122, while the .235 he posted in his small AAA sample size far outpaced the Pacific Coast League's .151 average.
The 2015 season will be a telling one for Asencio. While he showed growth in his brief taste of AAA, it will take more than just growth to catch anyone's eye. It will take a breakout season, and even that might not be enough; the Pacific Coast League is a notorious hitter's environment, so numbers that look impressive on the surface are often hollow. One of the greatest hindrances to his progress continues to be his lack of patience at the plate. A retooled approach seems to be in order, as his walk rate is consistently well below average and he doesn't hit for an obscenely high enough average or slug for enough extra bases to compensate for it. Without such an epiphany, he seems doomed to your classic AAAA mold: someone who hops from organization to organization, putting up impressive numbers in AAA and getting called up for a handful of games when emergencies arise, just so as to not use up the real prospects' service time. It's a tag that has been placed on many a man, but it's not necessarily the kiss of death. Just ask Jose Bautista. No, seriously, ask him; he probably already follows you on Twitter.
Regardless of whether he sets the PCL on fire or just continues to be a bit better than most of those around him, any real shot at the big leagues that Asencio receives will most likely come for another club. The odds of him seeing time with the star-studded 2015 Padres are beyond slim, and if it were to happen it would almost undoubtedly be to briefly keep a roster spot warm for a day or two in the case of injuries and/or bereavement leave, while other arrangements were being made, after which he would be unceremoniously designated for assignment. Either way, Asencio's second year with the Chihuahuas will essentially be an audition for the rest of baseball. He has as much or more to prove the other 29 teams as he does to prove the Padres, as he was passed over by everyone twice in the span of two weeks, both when he was on waivers and in the Rule 5 draft.
Even though the major league Padres should provide excitement and entertainment galore in 2015, it will still be interesting to keep an eye on Asencio down on the farm. That is, if he's still in the organization when the season breaks; life is very unpredictable, and life is even more unpredictable when A.J. Preller is your general manager.
All basic statistics are from Asencio's Baseball Reference page, with additional information culled from examination of his 2014 game log. Additional calculations (no pun intended) and graphic representations thereof were rendered by *points thumbs at self* this guy.
Notes 1 -- Notes 2 -- Notes 3