ERA, FIP, WHIP, K:BB ratio, Strikeout Rate, Walk Rate, xFIP - Braxton Ashcraft
There were just two noteworthy statistics that Ashcraft didn't lead all Pittsburgh Pirates minor league starting pitchers in. We'll get into that in a minute, but let's appreciate Braxton Ashcraft's outstanding rebound season after barely playing at all in any of the last three years.
Ashcraft finished off his 2023 season with a 2.39 ERA, 2.85 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP. The former second-round pick led all Pirates in these three stats. Ashcraft had an outstanding 29.6% strikeout rate, as well as a 5.2% walk rate, marking two more stats Ashcraft led Pirates' minor leaguers in. Leading Pirates minor leaguers in K% and BB% also means he led them in K:BB ratio at 5.73. xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) estimates how good a pitcher was if they had a league average HR/FB ratio. At 3.28, Ashcraft led all Pirates once again.
Ashcraft's season wasn't just great in terms of the Pirates' organization. It was a great season throughout all of minor league baseball. Among pitchers with at least 12 starts, Ashcraft had the 5th-best FIP, the 9th-best ERA, and the 7th-highest K:BB ratio. Ashcraft also ranked top 30 in WHIP (29th), walk rate (20th), and xFIP (16th).
There were only two stats that Ashcraft did not lead the Pirates' minor league starters in. That was home runs per nine innings and batting average against. Even though he did not lead the Pirates' minor leaguers in these two categories, he was still very good with a 0.68 HR/9 rate and an opponent batting average of .229.
But there was one thing worth mentioning, and something that almost made me leave him off of today's list. That was his innings count. Ashcraft only pitched 52.2 innings despite starting 19 games. Ashcraft pitched at most four innings in any outing. The Pirates used Ashcraft in an untraditional way because he barely pitched from 2021-2022. However, he did reach the minimum requirements despite his atypical usage.
I, for one, hope Ashcraft is used in a more regular starting pitching role moving forward. If he can maintain the upper-90s fastball he displayed last year for Altoona across five, six, maybe even seven innings, Ashcraft may end up being one of the Pirates' most under-the-radar pitching prospects.