Pittsburgh Pirates: Minor Leaguers Who Could Get Promoted Next

Which Pirate prospects could be promoted to the next level soon?

Feb 22, 2023; Bradenton, FL, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Matt Gorski (76) poses for photos
Feb 22, 2023; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Matt Gorski (76) poses for photos / Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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Braxton Ashcraft

Braxton Ashcraft’s promotion to Altoona seems overdue now. Ashcraft was a former second-round pick in 2018. However, he pitched sparsely from 2020 through 2022. COVID knocked out his 2020 season, and he only managed to fit 38.2 innings into 2021 before undergoing Tommy John surgery, which also knocked him out for 2022. Now that he’s back in action, he looks back to full strength and has already to taken on the next level of the minor leagues.

Ashcraft owns a 3.03 ERA, 3.46 FIP, and 1.16 WHIP through 36.2 innings. He’s demonstrated a strong ability to strike out batters without letting them reach via free pass. Ashcraft’s strikeout rate sits just under 30% at 29.9% while also having a phenomenal 4.5% walk rate. Among all minor leaguers with at least 30 frames, Ashcraft has the 17th-best K:BB ratio at 6.67.

However, home runs have come back to bite Ashcraft on more than one occasion. He has a 1.10 HR/9 rate. But that’s mainly because of his 13.8% HR/FB ratio at Greensboro. Despite having a FIP over 4.00 at High-A, his xFIP, which I think is best used to adjust for extreme conditions (such as a very hitter-friendly park), pins him at 3.64.

Ashcraft throws a four-seamer that could be one of the better fastballs in the system. He was dialing it up into the upper-90s early in the year with a lot of spin (Bradenton has publicly available pitch tracking data, but Greensboro does not). But his fastball isn’t his only offering. He also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup. His slider is his second-best offering, and his curveball also averages out with high-end spin. His change-up is a rarely used pitch, however.

Ashcraft’s strong start to the season has been a fun comeback story to watch. But he is now 23 and pitching well. This is not only a comeback season for him but also a breakout season. Ashcraft deserves to join the starting rotation in Altoona.