Braxton Ashcraft, RHP, PIT

It’s early in the minor league season, but the pop-up talents are already appearing. Let’s look at one such player in Pittsburgh right-hander Braxton Ashcraft down in High-A East Greensboro.

Video courtesy of Steve Givarz
  • Born: October 5, 1999
  • B/T: Left/Right
  • 6’5″, 195-lbs
  • Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2nd round of the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft from Robinson HS (Robinson, TX)

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

It’s charts like these take make you wonder just what he’s eating for breakfast nowadays. When everything suddenly turns green, you dig deeper.

Now this is only three starts worth of stats, and that’s an absurdly small sample size for a pitcher, averaging just four innings per start. Yet it’s what we have, and all we can say is that he’s off to a roaring start. The strikeout rate – always in issue for him in the past – has doubled, and the walk rate cut almost in half from 2019. He wont stay at this level for long if he keeps this level of dominance up.

Lefties, righties, doesn’t matter. Ashcraft has yer number.

A very balanced chart overall, with just more HRs being pulled to right. He’s not giving up much opposite field power.

So what’s the problem, you might be wondering if you glanced down at “The Scouts” section below and saw just how barren that section is. What do the scouts see, or rather do not see, in Ashcraft. Cue a scout:

Scouting report courtesy of Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs

Ah, here’s the problem. His fastball is not where it should be. He has a nice changeup, and a good curve, but the FB is not getting the swings and misses. Scouts think he should develop, and when you stand 6’5″ and only weigh 195 you do have room to put on more muscle, and have that FB tick up in velocity which should help the whiffs. But he needs to show a better development than he has so far.

Are his 2021 results a sign of that corner being turned? After all, what Eric Longenhagen wrote above was in February, before Ashcraft’s High-A East results.

Cue a recent tweet from a beat reporter:

So it’s the same story: his changeup is getting the swings and misses, the FB not as much. The jury is still out despite the good results. Those results are good, but scouts want to see those good results from a good process. Having an effective changeup is a key skill for a major leaguer, but without an effective FB, you simply won’t get results.

The Scouts

Warnings

Despite his good results this year, we still need to see a more effective fastball

Conclusion

Some pop-up players are displaying new skills. Others are just having a good run.

Let’s see what Ashcraft does the rest of the year before we put all our chips in. Good job so far, now please get more whiffs from that FB.

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