Pittsburgh Pirates: Prospects That Could Be On The Opening Day Roster

These three Pirates prospects could make the team's Opening Day roster.

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Braxton Ashcraft

Braxton Ashcraft was a second-round pick in the 2018 draft, but it was only last year that the right-hander would break out. Ashcraft barely pitched in 2020-2022, missing a good chunk of time because of Tommy John surgery. But Ashcraft had an outstanding 2023 campaign, earned a 40-man roster spot, and will likely make his debut in 2024. But could that be on Opening Day?

Through 52.2 innings, Ashcraft worked to a 2.39 ERA, 2.85 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP. Striking out batters and preventing walks were two of his biggest strengths. He had a 29.6% strikeout rate with a walk rate of just 5.2%, leading to a K:BB ratio of 5.73. Ashcraft was also great at preventing home runs with an HR/9 of just 0.68. Over 500 pitchers started at least 15 games and ranked top ten among those pitchers in ERA, FIP, and K:BB ratio.

However, Ashcraft was not used in a typical fashion. Even though he started 19 games, he fell far from reaching even 100 innings. That's because the Pirates were strict with his innings pitched. Given that he only pitched 38.1 innings in 2021, the last time he threw a pitch, and only surpassed 50 innings once in any previous season. That makes his long-term role as a starter or reliever uncertain.

On the plus side, Ashcraft looked as strong as ever. He was hitting the upper-90s with regularity with his fastball, and both his slider and curveball displayed decent movement. His control also looked pretty sharp. He also had the 16th lowest BB% among all minor leaguers with 15+ games started.

Although Ashcraft is on the 40-man roster, he has zero experience above Double-A. I think he has the least likely chance of making the Opening Day roster between him, Wolf, and Nicolas, but there may be some positives of having him skip Triple-A altogether. Triple-A uses the automated strike zone. It might be a lot to ask for a guy to get used to this, then to get used to pitching like he did prior all in one season. Slotting him into the bullpen as a long reliever could be a good idea.

Next. proejcting bullpen roles. Projected Opening Day Bullpen Roles. dark