On May 25th Graham Ashcraft took the mound against the Quad Cities River Bandits and he allowed five earned runs in just 1.2 innings before he exited the game. It wasn’t his best outing, but it may have lit an absolute fire in the big right-hander. His next start came five days later against the same River Bandits squad and he shut them out for 5.0 innings. That was the first of six consecutive starts where Ashcraft didn’t allow an earned run – four with the High-A Dayton Dragons and then two more after he was promoted to the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.

Sunday night he took the mound against the Birmingham Barons for the second time in the week. His streak without an earned run was sitting at 37.0 innings. The first three innings of the game went as well as you could expect – he had a perfect game going and his streak ran to 40.0 innings. It was in the bottom of the 4th inning that he was a few feet from the streak ending as a long fly ball was caught on the warning track right in front of the wall.

A leadoff walk in the 5th inning broke up the perfect game, but a strikeout and two ground outs kept the no-hitter going. The next inning featured another leadoff walk, but a ground ball double play erased that runner and then a ground out ended the inning to again keep the no-hitter going and the scoreless streak ran to 43.0 innings.

The pitch count was rising, but Graham Ashcraft headed back to the mound for the 7th. For the third consecutive inning he walked the leadoff hitter. After a visit from pitching coach Rob Wooten, the righty went back to work. It wasn’t to be on this night, the no-hitter at least, as the next batter singled over the shortstops head and into left field to break up the no-hitter and put men on 1st and 2nd. That was the night for Ashcraft as he was removed from the game.

His streak was now on the line and the outcome at this point was entirely out of his hands and in the hands of reliever Hector Perez. Things got dicey, quickly, as Perez walked the first batter he faced on four pitches to load the bases and Ashcraft’s streak ender was 90 feet away with no outs. Perez then proceeded to strike out the next two batters on just seven pitches. The last out needed wasn’t easy. Joel Booker worked a full count, with the bases loaded, but Perez won the battle on pitch number seven as he struck him out swinging to end the inning and preserve the streak for Ashcraft, who got a high five from his manager Ricky Gutierrez as he (Ashcraft) climbed the dugout steps to await his team as they came off of the field.

The season as a whole has been incredible for Graham Ashcraft. He’s now made 11 starts between his two stops, is 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA, has one of three 9-inning complete games in the minor leagues this season, has thrown 58.2 innings and allowed just 33 hits, and has allowed just two extra-base hits all season long – both doubles. Opponents are hitting just .164/.251/.174 against him on the year.

During his current 43.0 inning streak without an earned run he’s been even better (duh!) – he’s given up just 17 hits and held batters to a .123/.197/.130 line with 49 strikeouts. The last time he allowed an extra-base hit was on May 30th.

This season Graham Ashcraft has been doing two things at a high level that usually don’t both happen at the same time: Rack up strikeouts by the bunches and get ground balls by the bunches. Pitchers can usually be very good at one, but it’s rare that they are very good at both. When you find a guy who is good at both, you tend to find a guy who is dominant.

Looking at the average pitcher in Major League Baseball, he’s going to strike out 23.8% of the batters he faces and he’s going to have a ground ball rate of 43.4%. While the comparison isn’t even because Graham Ashcraft is not facing big league hitters right now, here’s how he is doing in those categories: 32.3% strikeout rate and a 53.3% ground ball rate.

Here’s the list of pitchers in Major League Baseball who have struck out at least 30% of the batters they’ve faced and have a ground ball rate of at least 50% since the start of 2020 and have thrown 75+ innings:

 

Did you see the list? It’s empty. No pitcher has been able to reach that threshold out of the 156 pitchers to throw 75+ innings in the last two seasons.

Here are the five pitchers who have at least a 46% ground ball rate and at least a 30% strikeout rate:

  • Corbin Burnes
  • Sonny Gray
  • Scott Barlow
  • Brandon Woodruff
  • Shane Bieber

It’s possible that you have heard of those pitchers before.

Getting strikeouts means there’s no chance of a hit taking place. That, of course, is very good when it comes to preventing runs. Keeping the ball on the ground means there’s a far less likely chance of a ball leading to a hit that’s more than a single. That, too, is very good when it comes to preventing runs. It’s a beautiful thing when the two meld together.

At some point in the future the streak is going to come to an end. But it’s been a heck of a ride to follow along and watch. Currently rated as the 20th prospect in the Reds farm system – he’s going to rocket up the list when the next update comes out after the draft (which takes place July 11-13, and you can check out all of the pre-draft scouting reports we’ve been writing here).

Update: 2:15pm ET

A few hours after this article was published Minor League Baseball announced that Graham Ashcraft had been named as the Double-A South Pitcher of the Week. It’s his second consecutive week winning the award, and the third time he’s won the award this season – he won it once while he was with the Dayton Dragons in the High-A Central, too. He made two starts and threw 11.0 shutout innings with just 3 hits allowed, walked 7, and he struck out 11 batters.

Other Player of the Week winners in the Cincinnati Reds Farm System

  • Graham Ashcraft – May 31-June 6, June 21-27, June 27-July 4 – Dayton/Chattanooga
  • Carson Spiers – June 7-13 – Dayton
  • Nick Lodolo – May 17-May 23 – Chattanooga
  • Hunter Greene – May 10-May16 – Chattanooga
  • Brian Rey – May 4-9, May 10-16 – Dayton
  • Lyon Richardson – May 4-May 9 – Dayton

 

35 Responses

  1. Bred

    Kyle Boody is one smart guy.
    Boddy tweeted:
    Kyle Boddy
    @drivelinebases
    ·
    Jun 29
    An overwhelming amount of the baseball analysis I read in the public sphere is focused on MLB. An organization that dominates starts in the complex/international academy and at Low/High-A.

    Writing about MiLB depth may get fewer clicks, but more looks from decisionmakers, IMO.

    Good work, Doug! Sound like a fan of your site to me.

    AAA for Ashcroft soon?

    • Matt

      AAA is a great idea,but………. Sims,Antoine and Lorenzen coming back. Someone on the current Reds roster has to go down. Seams like a log jam for any minor league pitcher at this point. Things can change quickly. Hope he stays hot.

      • RojoB

        …and healthy

        Is this the most work he’s ever gotten in his career?

      • Matt O'Neal

        @Rojo, he had 109 IP between college and rookie ball.

  2. MK

    It was interesting last night to hear the Birmingham announcer go through the college history of Ashcroft. The injury issues with both hips, how he moved schools a couple times with injury ring a reason. That he would have probably gone in the first round if not for them. Probably has more to do with health than Boddy.

  3. Mike Bittenbender

    Doug is it possible for him to pass Hunter and Lodolo in the promotion line, given Lodolo blister issue and Hunter’s command issue. Obviously would want to see AAA performance from him to know for sure and I hope that’s coming soon.

    • The Rage

      Hunter’s command issues??? Ashcroft isn’t any better and would struggle in AAA.

      • Mike Bittenbender

        My meaning was it’s seemed a no brained that Hunter and Lodolo were next in line for MLB but could Ashcraft get there ahead of them? Is he possibly closer to be MLB ready?

      • Doug Gray

        Anything is possible, but I would still think it’s unlikely he’d pass them both by. But at the same time, he’s not just getting by with smoke and mirrors, either. He’s got legit stuff. If he keeps pitching well he’s going to get his chance, and sooner rather than later. With where the Reds are at with the rotation right now, though, he’ll likely get time in Triple-A first. We’ve got to remember that while he’s been incredible this season, he also only has 3 starts above A-ball in his career.

  4. Jeffee

    Great to see Ashcroft performing well. On another note Reds twitter is reporting that SS Jose Barrero is headed to the MLB Futures game in Colorado Sunday. That is great news. The Reds Scouting staff will have 3 players participating in this Futures game. LHP Nick Lodolo, SS Jose Barrero and former Reds Sandwhich pick Jeter Downs currently with Boston Red Sox AAA whose is representing the American league team. Two are SS maybe one of the two could be the Reds SS of the future if we still had both. Who did the Reds get in return for trading Jeter Downs. Yasiel Puig the BAD MAKEUP guy who is out of MLB baseball.

    • Hoyce

      That whole trade was to dump homer baileys contract. Small market…

      • RojoB

        I still suspect that LAD knew that Alex Wood’s back was a broken tinker toy before that trade

      • jeffee

        Small market teams don’t give out 100 Million dollar contracts and they can’t make mistakes evaluating their own players MAKE UPS. Homer Bailey over Cueto was mistake not only for giving out that kind of contract to a pitcher but for incorrectly evaluating his MAKE UP. As Bailey failed to live up to his contract the OFFICE blamed his demise on poor makeup. Cincinatti has had very poor track record giving Large ML Contracts to pending/Free agent pitchers. Two ML contract to pitchers that they did give out were to Cuban’s Arorldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias. How much information on MAKE UP can you find out scouting Cuban players from a Communist country? This front office has made some bad moves and not being held accountable.

      • Doug Gray

        Every single thing you cited was made by a different front office than the one that exists today. Why would one hold them accountable for moves they didn’t make?

        And no one blamed Homer Bailey’s “failure to live up to his contract” on poor make up. The freaking guy had two different arm surgeries.

    • RojoB

      Downs plays mostly 2B doesn’t he?

      And speaking of “bad” makeups, there were enough stories about Downs to make me see him as a prima dona anyway.

      I’m glad we’re counting on Barreo instead

      • Hoyce

        Agreed. Barrero is a better player and better bet long term imo

    • Stock

      I didn’t mind giving up Downs. Gray is the one that i was disappointed in trading.

    • MK

      Garcia (Barrera) beat Downsout as a shortstop when they played together in Dayton. Downs was pushed to 2B where he had less value. So I doubt he went into Reds Shortstop plans. Downs also had a selfish attitude.I got the idea he didn’t like being considered #2 on popularity list to Greene.

      • DaveCT

        Downs is hitting all of .234 at AAA this year, though he did get a bunch of local NE press this past spring — as a Dustin Pedroia type.

  5. Stock

    if Antone, Sims, Hoffman and Lorenzen come back before anyone else hits the DL it will be interesting to see whom the Reds drop from their bullpen.

    You have those 3. Garrett, Hembree and Brach seem to be locks. Art Warren seems to be a lock.

    Cionel Perez and Ryan Hendrix seem to be locks to return to Louisville.

    That leaves the final position to be between Doolittle and Osich. Osich has clearly earned it.

    I am hoping they bring Antone back as a SP and move Hoffman to the bullpen.

    I think a rotation of Castillo, Gray, Mahle, Miley and Antone would be very good.

    A bullpen of Lorenzen, Garrett, Sims, Brach, Hembree, Hoffman, Warren and Osich would be good.

    • Doc

      I wish it were the policy of the RLN website to require commenters to do just as you have done in identifying the potential demotees when wanting to promote someone. Commenters on this site fire off promotion wishes willy nilly, but rarely does anyone identify whom the promotee will replace. It’s easy to toss out names if one does not need to deal with all the ramifications of the promotion.

      So, your comment, Stock, was a refreshing upgrade because those are decisions that the FO must make. Ditto promoting Ashcroft to Louisville; whom does he replace and where does that player go? None of these moves can be made in a vacuum.

    • DaveCT

      Stock, your thought is to move Antone to the rotation. This would require mocking V. Gutierrez to the pen or AAA as well, right?

      If that’s the case, then hats off to Gutierrez, Hendrix, Santillan and even Perez for helping hold the line during a really challenging time.

  6. Matt

    Congrats Moreta to AAA. Awesome, he’s having a great year

  7. jeffee

    Doug you are correct other General Managers were responsible for the Reds failed Big ML Contract pending or free agent pitching signings of Homer Bailey or lets add Eric MIlton to include possibly the worst ones. But members of this current Front office were high ranking members in Walt Jockety’s Front office that had input into trading of Homer Bailey’s contract. Nick Krall the current General Manager of the Reds was a large part of the process in the trade of Homer Bailey to the Dodgers getting fleeced of Jeter Downs and Josias Gray for Homer Bailey. He was also the Director of Pro Scouting when the Reds made probably the worst trade in there history by aquiring Mat Latos for 4 future ML Allstars making mininal salaries Yasmany Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger and Edinson Volquez. The Japanese guy is a total bust for 21 million over 3 years. Yasiel Puig has been accused of sexual wrongdoings, Trevor Bauer also accused recently of a sexual related incident. Fortunately they were not accused why playing for the Reds but Bauer was a Red last October. The final kicker is the Cincinnati Red’s Fourth round pick in the 2020 Mackenzie Wainright who is currently suspended from the Reds and awaiting trial later this summer on sexual incident and by the way he is from the State of Ohio. Somebody has to be accountable for these poor recommendations. Thats their job. It is a results business. 500 teams are not good enough for our fans including me.

    • Doug Gray

      The one you should actually be mad about is Alfredo Simon. That’s the one someone should be held accountable for. Because what he did was already known when he was acquired.

      The others? They happened after the fact. I don’t know how you go to a scout/front office guy and “hold them accountable” because years later the player did something terrible off of the field for not knowing that the player would do that.

    • AllTheHype

      Funny you mock a couple trades without mentioning the really good ones such as Suarez, Gray, Castillo, Bauer…..and one of those you mocked was actually a good trade (Latos), of which they got 6 good years of starting pitching (3 from Latos, 3 from Desclafani whom Latos was later traded for) and two post season berths! That’s way more than the mostly middling results those four (they gave up for Latos) produced during their years controlled.

    • BZ

      His name is Shogo Akiyama. He has a name just like 10+ other front office personnel/baseball player names you mentioned.

      • jeffee

        Shogo Akiyama another great sign by Nick Krall and Crew. A 4-5th Outfielder on 3 year ML contract for $21 million guaranteed. Would have been better off waiting on Jose Siri who is killing it for the Astros AAA club Sugar Land Skeeters with a 337 ave and OPS of 948 with 10 Hr and 14 SB. Kinda how they waited on Jesse Winker to Blossom. Had to go all the way to Japan to get a 4-5th outfielder for $21 million. When I talk about accountability those are the kinds of decisions the front office needs to be held accountable for. They were given money to go out a pay a player with NO Major League experience $21 million for 3 years to sit on the bench and play defense occasionally. You can’t expect ownership to pony up more money when you make decisions like this. Moustakas is another contract that should not have been signed off on. Why 4 years? Castellanos with an opt out clause is so foolish especially when your trying to create your window to win. He will opt out after this year and we will be back in never ending rebuild mode. Go Reds!

      • Doug Gray

        $7M a year is solid bench player money. Starting outfielders on the free agent market get $10+M a year if they’ve produced in the past. This isn’t 2001 anymore. $7M is not every day position player (free agent) money.

        And you go 4 years with both Castellanos and Moustakas because that is what it takes to sign those guys. You can’t sign Castellanos without those opt out clauses. So you give them to him and hope it works out in your favor. If he leaves, great. That means he performed well enough under your contract to get even more money in his next one. Now go out and sign someone to replace him.

      • RojoB

        @jeffee

        “the Japanese guy” ???

        I’m with BZ on this.

        It ain’t 1950, sir.

        And Cincinnati has 3 N’s and only ONE T