This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man roster.
Braxton Ashcraft is one of the newest members on the roster. The Pittsburgh Pirates added him in November to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft.
Our ninth-best Pirates’ prospect, Ashcraft was selected by the Pirates out of high school in the second round of the 2018 draft. The now 24-year-old has had a roller coaster of a career since joining the organization.
His professional career began in unspectacular fashion as he posted a 4.58 ERA in his first season in the minor leagues and followed it up with a 5.77 ERA in 2019.
There was no minor league season during the 2020 shortened-season, so Ashcraft wasn’t able to take the mound again until 2021. That year, the right-hander again struggled and posted a 5.35 ERA through 10 starts.
The woes on the mound turned out to be the least of Ashcraft’s concerns. His season was cut short after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The operation caused him to be sidelined through the end of the 2022 season.
Ashcraft made his return to the mound this past season and opened eyes with how well he performed.
The Pirates were understandably cautious with his workload coming off of his operation. He made 19 starts between three levels this past season, totaling 52.2 innings pitched. Combined, he ended the season with a 2.39 ERA.
His best work came in Double-A Altoona. With the Curve, Ashcraft made eight starts and pitched 20 innings in total. He surrendered only three earned runs (1.35 ERA) and struck out 23 batters against five walks. Of the 14 hits he allowed, none of them left the yard.
This coming year, the expectation is that the Pirates will increase Ashcraft’s workload now that he is well over two years removed from the operating table.
Pittsburgh could certainly use the depth and a potential boost to their starting rotation. As things stand, the major league rotation leaves much to be desired, especially in wake of Johan Oviedo being out for the year.
It’s unlikely Ashcraft will break camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but expect to see him on the mound at PNC Park at some point in 2024.