There were a few pitchers this season in the Cincinnati Reds farm system who put together very good seasons, but none were better than that of Graham Ashcraft, who is getting my nod for 2021 Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award.

The Cincinnati brass was high on Graham Ashcraft when the year began, inviting him to join their “early spring training” camp of minor leaguers who played alongside the big leaguers in February and March before the start of actual minor league spring training that began in April.

The Reds sent Graham Ashcraft to join the High-A Dayton Dragons when the minor league season began in May, and his first start didn’t quite go as well as one would imagine that he had hoped. He gave up two runs in 3.2 innings. Three starts later he had a disastrous start against Quad Cities where he allowed five runs in just 1.2 innings.

His next start also came against Quad Cities and it started a run of seven consecutive starts where he didn’t allow an earned run that spanned four starts with Dayton and then three more after a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. In total he would throw 44 innings in a row without allowing an earned run, giving up just 17 hits, walk 13 batters, and he struck out 52 of the 157 batters he faced in that span. But in that 45th inning things went south in a hurry as he allowed seven runs and 8 baserunners against Pensacola without recording an out.

While he didn’t quite reach the highs of that streak again during the season, Graham Ashcraft was still very good the rest of the season. He would make 10 starts after that and posted a 3.51 ERA for the Lookouts in that stretch. Overall he would throw 111.0 innings between Dayton and Chattanooga, allow just 86 hits – 4 of which were home runs – walk just 37 batters, and he struck out 129. His 3.00 ERA led all qualified starters in the organization, and his 1.11 WHIP was second.

Opposing batters managed to hit just .212/.288/.271 against Graham Ashcraft this season with 10 doubles, a triple, and 4 home runs in 454 plate appearances. One of the big reasons he was so successful in limiting extra-base hits is that when guys did make contact against him they put the ball on the ground 59% of the time. Among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings in all of theĀ  minor leagues this past season, his 59% ground ball rate was the 3rd best (and led the Reds system among pitchers with at least 70 innings).

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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12 Responses

  1. Alan Horn

    Good choice. He was more consistent from start to finish than Greene or Lodolo. Likewise, he stayed away from injury. Granted, he is untested at AAA, but that should not be a criteria in the choice since he has yet to play there.

    Reply
  2. Bred

    Reading the article it seems like he has starter potential. He must have vastly improved this year because the few scouting reports I read indicate a reliever based on his need to improve his control, command and change up. His FV was 40 to 50 in the reports I read.

    Reply
  3. SteveLV

    Would be interested in who his competition was, Doug. Assume Moreta was the runner-up? Greene in there somewhere, or was he too inconsistent in Louisville to be in the top group for this award? Not sure who else I would include off the top of my head.

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      Spoiler alert: Moreta’s getting reliever of the year. In most cases it’s tough to give a reliever the pitcher of the year award because of the innings compared to a starter. This year may have been difference given just how incredible Moreta’s season was.

      I decided to just stick with Pitcher of the Year being a starter and Reliever of the Year being a reliever. That allows more recognition to be had.

      With regards to the starters – it was pretty much Ashcraft, Greene, and Spiers.

      Reply
      • SteveLV

        Ooops, sorry ?

        Yeah, forgot about Spiers. Makes sense.

        Thanks

  4. DaveCT

    Did Eduardo Salazar get any honorable mention? Thought his consistency was telling in addition to a few things like low BB rate, etc.

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      I didn’t really give anyone an honorable mention, but he was probably in the top 5. Topped 100 innings, 3.56 ERA, 1.18 WHIP. Pretty similar to what Carson Spiers had done.

      Reply
  5. MK

    I really like the season Carson Spiers had with Daytona and Dayton. He was very consistent from beginning to end and competitive throughout.

    Reply
    • DaveCT

      Spiers could be a valuable guy moving forward. Middle relief, starting, or both.

      Reply
  6. Redsvol

    totally agree with this selection. I saw Ashcraft pitch in Chattanooga in the hottest time of the year and he was dominant. He is a bulldog on the mound.

    I do think he’s going to have to develop his off-speed stuff more. He didn’t seem to be able to get strikeouts with the off-speed but that may have just been 1 game. And I didn’t see much of a change-up at all. He definitely has mid-rotation or better starter potential. Hoping he stays healthy and works on the changeup to force his way into GABP sometime in 2022.

    Reply
  7. Bubba Woo

    The type of prospect that the Reds should be targeting. High ground ball rate/low home run rate is ideal for GABP. The Reds have a history of prospects being ruined by GABP and not recovering. I don’t think that’ll happen to Ashcraft.

    Reply
  8. DaveCT

    But they still have to target who is available, and that’s been an issue. Senzel is not Kris Bryant. The list goes on. Some teams have just days when projecting who to take, but do ok, i.e., the ‘Stros, some dude named Bregman. First issue, this. Second is management’s lack of competitiveness, allowing being anything other than mediocre to be defined as a success.

    Reply

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