After spending 2019 with Greeneville and then sitting out the 2020 year, Graham Ashcraft got an invite to “early minor league spring training” in 2021. That was the small, but select group of just 18 players that weren’t technically in big league camp but were playing on the backfields and would occasionally get into some of the big league games.

When the minor league season began in May, the Cincinnati Reds sent Graham Ashcraft to join the High-A Dayton Dragons. In his first start he had some struggles, giving up two runs on two hits and three walks in 3.2 innings. He rebounded well in the next two starts, giving up just three earned runs in 10.1 combined innings while striking out 15 batters with just two walks.

On May 25th the big righty took on Quad Cities and things did not go well. The River Bandits touched him up for five runs in just 1.2 innings. That was a turning point in the season for Ashcraft. Later that week he would get another shot at Quad Cities and he would get his revenge, throwing 5.0 shutout innings. That start began a streak of seven consecutive starts where Ashcraft didn’t allow an earned run. Four of those starts came with Dayton. Three more came after a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga – the first of which was a 2-hit shutout that featured eight strikeouts in a complete game.

From May 30th through July 4th he threw 43.0 innings and allowed just 17 hits and 13 walks while holding opponents to a .328 OPS and striking out 49 of the 154 hitters he faced in that span.

On July 10th Graham Ashcraft was scheduled to start for Chattanooga, but rain showed up right before 1st pitch was set to go and it rained hard enough in a short period of time that the game was postponed. Given the timing, though, it pushed his start a few days and he took the mound on July 13th against Pensacola. He extended his streak to 44.0 innings without allowing an earned run with a shutout 1st inning. But things fell apart in the 2nd inning as he wound up being charged with seven earned runs, and another unearned run, without recording an out in the 2nd inning.

Taking on the same Pensacola team the next time out, Ashcraft fired 6.0 shutout innings. That was followed up with 7.0 shutout innings against Birmingham. Things did slow down a bit from there, but they almost had to given that he had given up earned runs in one of his last 10 starts. In the final eight starts of the year he was solid, allowing more than three earned runs in just one start – giving up five in 5.2 innings on August 11th against Birmingham.

For all 2021 Season Reviews and Scouting Reports – click here (these will come out during the week throughout the offseason).

Graham Ashcraft Scouting Report

Position: Right-handed pitcher | B/T: R/L

Height: 6′ 2″ | Weight: 240 lbs | Drafted: 6th Round, 2019

Born: February 11, 1998

Fastball | A plus pitch that features both good velocity and high ground ball tendencies. It works in the mid-to-upper 90’s and touched 100.

Slider | His main secondary offering, the slider works in the upper 80’s and is another plus offering.

Curveball | A new pitch for 2021 that was developed prior to the season, it’s a second breaking ball that will show up on occasion and is a solid-average pitch.

Change Up | A fringe-average offering that doesn’t show up as often as the fastball or slider.

The Cincinnati Reds had a few breakout prospects in 2021 and Graham Ashcraft was near the top of that list. The right-hander made 22 starts on the season and posted a 3.00 ERA in 111.0 innings between High-A Dayton (8 starts) and Double-A Chattanooga (14 starts) while striking out 129 batters and giving up just four home runs.

His 59% ground ball rate was among the best in the minor leagues among starting pitchers, and it was better at the Double-A level, too (60% compared to 55% in High-A). His ability to get elite ground ball rates as well as plenty of strikeouts makes him a bit of a unicorn – most pitchers can get one or the other, but very few can do both and the ones that do tend to be quite good. And to top it off, he throws strikes, too.

While there’s not any Triple-A experience under his belt, Graham Ashcraft is close to being able to help in the big leagues. While he has been starting, and should remain a starter long term, there’s a very quick path to the big league bullpen if the organization wants to take advantage of it.

Interesting Stat on Graham Ashcraft

He held left-handed hitters to a .164 average and a .193 slugging percentage (two doubles, one home run allowed) in 171 at-bats during the 2021 season.

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7 Responses

  1. Matt

    Excited to watch him against AAA competition this coming season.

    Actually, the entire Bats rotation should be exciting. Cincinnati has two openings. I expect Gutierrez to hold onto one of them. That opens competition for the last spot for Greene, Lodolo, Sanmartin, O’Brien, Santillan, Ashcraft, maybe a free agent. Whoever doesn’t grab that 5th spot probably ends up in the Bats starting 5. (Except maybe Santillan in the Reds bullpen). That’s a solid group.

  2. MK

    That minor league leading ground ball rate. Was it weighted pretty heavily to the period he was being dominat?Wonder if it was the same later when he became a little more average?

    • Doug Gray

      It wasn’t weighted THAT heavily. In the 10 starts where his only runs came in that Pensacola massacre (with the two shutout outings following it also being included) his GB% was 63%. Moving forward on the season in was still 55%, which is an elite ground ball rate.

      • MK

        Thanks Doug that is good news. Was hoping that was the case. Thought maybe as inning built up and fatigue set in, after the year off, maybe his velocity decreased and pitches got up in zone meaning more fly balls. Sounds like he can sustain his location.

    • Andrew

      Guy has dominant stretch. Leads league in category for the season. Poster throws shade because his dominance led to him leading the statistical category. Huh?

  3. Bourgeois Zee

    Really like Ashcraft as a middle relief arm at minimum. (This assumes health– which is not always reality.) I view him as slightly behind Lodolo, who is slightly behind Greene, who is slightly behind Gutierrez and Santillan.

    San Martin and O’Brien fit in there somewhere as well.

    It’s nice to have multiple options on the pitching front, at least.

  4. DaveCT

    Off topic but Drew Mount played CF in AZ yesterday. Still hitting. Could he project, at a minimum, as part of a platoon there? I have generally thought of Mount as a platoon corner guy.