Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching Prospect Who Must Be Protected From the Rule 5 Draft

Dec 7, 2022; San Diego, CA, USA; A detailed view of the podium before the Rule 5 draft during the
Dec 7, 2022; San Diego, CA, USA; A detailed view of the podium before the Rule 5 draft during the / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Braxton Ashcraft is one prospect that the organization needs to protect from the Rule 5 Draft his offseason

Part of the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings every offseason is the Rule 5 Draft. Prior to the Rule 5 Draft, teams must add prospects who are eligible for the draft to their 40-man roster in order to keep them from being eligible for the draft. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, there is a pitching prospect that must be protected from this year's Rule 5 Draft.

Pitching prospect Braxton Ashcraft is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. The Pirates selected Ashcraft with the 51st overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. He immediately became one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the Pirate farm system. Unfortunately, things have not gone according to plan for Ashcraft.

Throughout his minor league career Ashcraft has battled injuries. Without these injuries, there's a real possibility he would have made his MLB debut by now. Ashcraft, however, did not pitch in 2020 due to the COVID cancelling the minor league season, he was then limited to just 38.2 innings in 2021 before getting injured and missing all of 2022.

In 2023 Ashcraft returned to the mound and flashed why he was the 51st overall pick in the draft in 2018. Ashcraft pitched for Low-A Bradenton, High-A Greensboro, and Double-A Altoona, logging 52.2 innings in 19 starts.

In these 19 starts Ashcraft posted a 2.39 ERA and a 2.85 FIP. He walked 5.2% of batters faced, struck out opposing batters at a healthy 29.6% clip, allowed home runs at just a 0.68 HR/9 rate, and limited opposing batters to a .229 batting average.

These results have quickly put Ashcraft back on the map as a pitching prospect in the Pirate farm system. It was also a campaign that could put him on the map with other organiations around baseball. This is hwy it is important for the Pirates to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

After the amount of time Ashcraft missed due to COVID and injuries, there are still plenty of question marks around his long-term outlook. That said, due to Ashcraft's pure stuff and success in 2023 a team would likely take a gamble of Ashcraft in the Rule 5 Draft.

There are plenty of major league relievers who do not have as good of stuff as Ashcraft does. Pure stuff can get a pitcher a long way in a major league bullpen. To make sure that the Pirates do not lose Ashcraft, they need to add him to the 40-man roster this offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

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