As short season leagues begin to start across the minor leagues, one of the Pittsburgh Pirates top pitching prospects made their 2019 debut over the weekend
Over the weekend, New York-Penn League play began. This included Pittsburgh Pirates minor league affiliate the West Virginia Black Bears.
The Black Bears kicked off their 2019 season on Saturday night. While the team was defeated 5-4 by the Mahoning Valley Scrapers, the game was still noteworthy. Not only was it opening night for the team, but one of the top pitching prospects in the Pirate farm system started for West Virginia on Saturday night.
19-year-old righty Braxton Ashcraft started for the Black Bears on Saturday night. Ashcraft was the Pirates 2nd round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, and he has quickly become one of the top pitching prospects in the Pirate organization.
Making his 2019 debut, Ashcraft pitched 5 innings for the short season West Virginia Black Bears on Saturday night. He allowed just two hits, he walked a batter, and he hit a batter. Ashcraft picked up three strikeouts and he allowed 3 runs. Only 2 of these runs, however, were earned.
It’s good to see poor defense hurting pitchers spreading to the lowest levels of the Pirate organization. Nice to see these guys doing their best to play like the Big League Club does!
For pitchers as young as Ashcraft throwing strikes can be as important as anything. In his 5 innings of work he issued just the one walk to go with his HBP and he threw 63% of his pitches for strikes. While you want to see a pitcher throw strikes more often than 63%, that is a more than good enough number for a 19-year-old pitcher who is in just their second season of professional baseball.
Last season, Ashcraft made five starts for the Gulf Coast League Pirates. He allowed 16 hits, two home runs, walked five, hit three, and threw one wild pitch in 17 2/3 innings pitched. In 17 2/3 innings pitched he recorded 12 strikeouts and posted a 4.58 ERA and a 5.13 FIP.