Pittsburgh Pirates: 2018 Draft Pick Off to a Hot Start for Greensboro

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Braxton Ashcraft was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 51st overall pick in the 2018 draft and is off to a hot start this season

The 2018 draft has the potential to be a strong one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While they failed to sign top 2021 draft prospect Gunnar Holland, they were able to ink top outfield prospect Travis Swaggerty, as well as pitchers Michael Burrows and Aaron Shortridge.

Another pitcher the Pittsburgh Pirates signed coming out of the 2018 draft was prep righty Braxton Ashcraft. After struggling in 2019 and not pitching in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ashcraft made his High-A debut to start the 2021 season and is off to a red hot start.

Ashcraft was drafted out of Robinson High School in Waco, Texas. He features a four-pitch mix with a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. Ashcraft’s fastball is one that has good sink and movement to it, but his slider and curveball are his two best pitches. FanGraphs gives his slider a future value of 50 and his changeup 45.

Coming out of high school Ashcraft was noted for his good feel of the changeup at an early age. Perfect Game also commended Ashcraft’s feel for pitching, as well as changing speeds to keep hitters off balance.

In his first action at the High-A level, Ashcraft has made 4 starts so far this season for the Greensboro Grasshoppers. In these starts Ashcraft has pitched like a prospect who looks primed to establish himself as a promising young arm in the Pirate farm system, as well as one would could potentially be to the Double-A level by the end of the 2021 season.

Ashcraft’s most recent start came on Thursday night. In that start he allowed 1 run on 4 hits, 2 walks, a home run and he struck out 3. This marked the third consecutive start in which Ashcraft pitched at least 4 innings, which is a bigger accomplishment than it sounds like for a pitcher at the High-A level. Especially when you factor in there not being a minor league season in 2020 which will lead to organizations across baseball being careful with young arms this season.

Through his 4 starts this season Ashcraft has posted a 1.65 ERA, 6.7% walk rate and a 28.3% strikeout rate in 16.1 innings of work. While his 3 home runs are a bit more than you would like to see in just 16.1 innings of work, he has allowed a total of just 9 hits. This combined with his low walk rate and high strikeout rate have helped to minimize the damage the long ball has caused.

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If Ashcraft continues to pitch well this season he is a pitcher with the potential to climb up Pirate prospect rankings. He could also find himself with the Double-A Altoona Curve by the end of the 2021 season.