These two Pittsburgh Pirates minor league pitchers may make an unexpected impact in the major leagues within the near future
Many fans expect some of the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects to make an impact in the near future. Nobody would be surprised if Endy Rodriguez came up and started to hit well, or Luis Ortiz to get promoted and bolster the Pirate rotation. But there are two pitching prospects worth noting who could force themselves into the Pirates’ long-term plans, and make an unexpected impact.
If you predicted that Braxton Ashcraft would be the Pirates’ most dominant pitcher in April, you are lying. The Pirates’ 2018 second-round draft pick barely pitched from 2020 through 2022. There was the canceled COVID season, then he only pitched 38.1 innings the next year before undergoing Tommy John surgery. That caused him to miss the rest of 2021 and the entirety of 2022. Between 2018 and 2021, Ashcraft posted an ERA of 5.00 or greater in two of his three seasons. But despite that, Ashcraft has returned with a vengeance.
It’s a small sample size, but an extremely promising one at that. In 10.1 innings between Bradenton and Greensboro, Ashcraft hasn’t allowed a single earned run while striking out batters at a whopping 44.7% rate. He’s also only allowed one walk, for a 2.6% walk rate. Although there’s no Statcast pitch data for his game at Greensboro, Ashcraft was averaging out in the mid-90s during his time at Bradenton, which would be an uptick to his pre-2020 days.
Ashcraft is 23, and will probably find his way to Altoona before the end of the year. He may even find himself at Triple-A based on how he’s pitching. Ashcraft isn’t one of the first names you think about when talking about the Pirates’ long-term future, but he could propel himself into their long-term plans if the start of his 2023 season isn’t a fluke.
A guy who could make an impact this year is Osvaldo Bido. Bido is certainly not one of the first names that comes to mind when you think of Pirate minor leaguers. Bido made his professional debut back in 2017. Aside from 2019, Bido had an ERA over 4.18 in his other four campaigns.
Neither his walk rate nor his strikeout rate was anything to write home about, and while he prevented the long ball early in his career, Bido struggled to keep the ball in the park once he reached Double-A and Triple-A. But the start of the 2023 season might just sneak him into the bullpen, depending on how the relievers play out.
So far in 16 innings at Indy, Bido has only allowed five earned runs on ten hits. Bido has struck out 18 batters while allowing six to reach via free pass. Bido started the year off with seven straight walkless innings. The right-hander is consistently sitting 93-95 MPH with his four-seamer, and topping out at 96 MPH. With the long relief options the Pirates currently have, Bido may just find his way to the big leagues later this year. He certainly would be a better option than Chase De Jong.
Ashcraft and Bido are both not names you would expect to make an impact, but there's no doubt they're off to outstanding starts to the 2023 season. Ashcraft is the more promising of the two, given he's a former second-round pick. However, Bido, given the team's other long relief options, may get a chance later this year.