Pittsburgh Pirates Designate Will Craig For Assignment, Claim Ashton Goudeau

(Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) /

After claiming Ashton Goudeau off waviers from the Coloardo Rockies, the Pittsburgh Pirates have designated former first round pick Will Craig for assignment.

The Pittsburgh Pirates recently announced two moves. The first was claiming right handed pitcher Ashton Goudeau off waviers from the Colorado Rockies. To make room for the right hander, the Pirates have designated former first round pick, firstbaseman Will Craig for assignment.

Goudeau, 28, was originally a 27th round pick by the Kansas City Royals back in 2012. He’s spent the last two years with the Colorado Rockies. He also spent the 2018 season with the Seattle Mariners before reaching the Colorado Rockies in 2019. During his first season in the Rox’s system, Gordeau posted some pretty good numbers. Those included a 2.07 ERA, 2.05 FIP and .919 WHIP in 78.1 innings of work at the Double-A level. The former Royals’ draft pick struck out 30.1% of the batters he faced while walking only 4%. His HR/9 of .5 marked yet another strong mark.In 2020, the right hander only pitched 8.1 innings allowing seven earned runs on three home runs last year at the major league level which has so far been the only major league experience he’s had.

All told throughout the minors, Gordeau has pitched 563.2 innings with a 4.81 ERA and 1.403 WHIP, but does have a solid 3.56 FIP. While he does have a minor league strikeout rate of only 20.4%, his walk percentage is a strong 6.3%. His HR/9 rate of .88 is another solid mark.

Gordeau works with three pitches: a fastball, curveball and change-up. FanGraphs grades out the fastball and curveball as above average pitches with his curve even having a 60 future grade. His change-up only has a 45 current/future grade, but his command is great. He has a 55 current and future command grade and has displayed that in the minors. Gordeau has worked as a swing man throughout his minor league career, but given the strength of his fastball and curveball, he could be a very useful reliever.

To make room for Gordeau, the Pirates have designated 2016 first round pick Will Craig. The first baseman has been extremely inconsistent throughout his professional career. Through his first two season, Craig showed a decent ability to make consistent contact and reach base with a .274 batting average and .386 on base percentage across 816 plate appearances, but the power he was drafted for didn’t show up. His slugging percentage in 2016 was .362 and .371 in 2017.

Craig was moved to Double-A in 2018 where he started to show some decent power. The first baseman slugged 20 home runs with 30 doubles with a .200 isolated slugging, but it was at the cost of his contact and plate discipline. Craig struck out 23.3% of the time and his walk rate was a measley 7.7% compared to a 17.5% K-rate and 12.6% walk rate in ’16-’17. His batting average also fell to .248 for a .248/.321/.448 line. Still, he had a solid 110 wRC+ and .341 wOBA through 549 plate appearances.

Nothing went right for the first round pick in 2019. Now at Triple-A, Craig turned in a .249/.326/.435 line in 556 plate appearances. Despite the extremely hitter friendly enviroment that was the minor leagues in 2019, Craig only hit 23 home runs with the same amount of doubles. His isolated slugging fell below .200 to .186, and his plate discipline took yet another step backwards. His walk rate remained relatively the same at 7.9%, but his strikeout rate jumpped to 26.3%. All told, his 92 wRC+ and .329 wOBA were career low marks.

Craig’s best tool is his arm strength. Drafted originally as a third baseman, Craig’s overall raw power has been his best strength. His arm has a 60 grade with a 55 current and future raw power grade. His game power comes in with a 55 future grade as well. He also is a solid fielder at first base winning the Triple-A Gold Glove at first base. Craig only got 4 major league plate appearnces with the Bucs, all coming in 2020.

With Colin Moran, Josh Bell and Phillip Evans all options at first for the Pirates, it would have been hard for Craig to find playing time and even moreso with the MLB still unsure as to whether or not to bring back the universal DH for 2021. They did try him out in right field in 2019 at Triple-A for 106.2 innings but given the lack of speed Craig has, it was more of an expierment than changing his position.

Regardless, it was still a bit surprising that the Pirates chose to designated Will Craig for assignment over someone like Sean Poppen, Kyle Crick or Tyler Bashlor. Despite the ERA, Goudeau looks like he could be a diamond in the rough. His fastball and curveball are both considered above average pitches with good control.