Sunday afternoon saw the Cincinnati Reds send two of their top pitching prospects to the mound against the Chicago Cubs. Graham Ashcraft started the game for the Reds and he threw 3.0 innings. Hunter Greene came on in relief, pitching a shutout 5th inning.

We’re going to start out with Hunter Greene’s performance first. As a member of the 40-man roster he was locked out and was making his first appearance in a game on Sunday against Chicago. The first outing for Greene went quite well. He struck out former teammate Narciso Crook to begin the inning. The next batter grounded out to shortstop Matt McLain. Dixon Machado popped up to first base, but Colin Moran lost the ball in the sun and it landed on the dirt for an infield single. Greene then struck out Willson Contreras to end the inning and complete his outing for the day.

The 22-year-old righty faced four batters and threw 17 pitches in the inning. Had Moran not lost the ball in the sun he would have been out of the inning after 10 pitches, but he battled Willson Contreras in the final at-bat before coming out on top. Greene recorded his three outs in the inning on three different pitches. His first out came on a 101 MPH fastball that went by Narciso Crook’s bat. The ground out for the second out was off of a change up. Contreras was caught looking at a slider that caught the zone to end the inning.

While it was just one inning, Hunter Greene looked good. He looked ready to go. Greene was throwing strikes. He showed off three different pitches and got results with all of them. We’ll get to see him take the mound again on Saturday against the San Francisco Giants. In that game he’ll be the starter and is likely to get more than one inning of work.

Watching Graham Ashcraft

Unlike Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft is not on the 40-man roster. That meant that the Reds #5 prospect was able to participate in early minor league camp out in Goodyear that began just over a month ago. Because of that it’s allowed Ashcraft (and others who were there) to get more work in than players on the 40-man roster and – at least in theory – be a little bit ahead of those players. That’s probably why Ashcraft was able to throw 3.0 innings on Sunday.

Ashcraft, a 6′ 2″ and 240 lb. right-handed starter was making his first appearance in a game this spring. His first inning, much like the inning from Greene, went fairly well outside of a defensive miscue. Back-to-back groundouts were recorded on Nick Madrigal and Willson Contreras before Mike Moustakas bobbled a grounder that allowed Jason Heyward to reach on an error. Ashcraft rebounded by striking out Patrick Wisdom on a slider.

The second inning didn’t go nearly as well as the first. While Ashcraft got results in the first inning, he was missing his spots quite a bit during the inning. In the second those misses didn’t get better and led to some problems. After a leadoff single on a grounder up the middle, Ashcraft hit the next batter on the elbow. He also hit the next batter to load the bases. The righty struck Narciso Crook out for the first out. A grounder to Alejo Lopez at second base where he made a nice play resulted in the second out, but also in a run scoring. Another grounder to Lopez ended the inning and limited the damage to just one run. The third and final inning was a quick one that saw two fly outs and a ground out that required Ashcraft to throw 12 pitches to get through the inning, pushing him to 50 on the day.

There were some good things to see in the outing. If you had a chance to watch you could tell that the cut fastball thrown by Ashcraft has good movement to it. And while there was no displayed radar on the screen, the Cubs broadcasters noted he was sitting 97 consistently, and Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted out during the game that he had hit 100 MPH in the first inning. None of that is uncommon for Ashcraft who was doing the same stuff last season while with the High-A Dayton Dragons and Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. You also got a chance to see his slider. While it was inconsistent in location on the day, it showed that hard, biting action. Another good sign was the amount of ground balls he generated during the game. That, too, is much like he’s always done. In his two minor league seasons he’s posted a ground ball rate of 57.4% (MLB average rate is 42%).

The control and command on the day was not great, particularly in the first two innings. He was missing with the fastball and the slider quite often, even when throwing strikes. That has not been a big issue for him in the minors. He has only walked 58 batters in his 164.2 minor league innings. Despite struggling with his control and command, Ashcraft was able to put together a solid outing.

15 Responses

  1. RedFuture

    Am I in a timewarp or what? Wasn’t that game yesterday, Monday?

  2. CFD3000

    Given that this was the first MLB spring outing for both top prospects I’m taking this as a very positive report. If the Reds are going to be competitive this year they will need two or three young starters to have a breakout year. Greene and Ashcraft may lead that list, but perhaps it will be Santillan, Gutierrez, Lodolo, SanMartin or Lively making that next step. The fact that there are so many possibilities gives me hope that it’s at least… possible. This was a good first step.

  3. SultanofSwaff

    Still thinking about the people who thought Hunter Greene should play shortstop lol. This kid is a generational talent. I love how repeatable his delivery is and his tempo has slowed dramatically from the more frantic attack mode style he used to have. Hard to disagree with the Cubs broadcaster who said we have a perennial all-star if he just stays healthy. Put him in the rotation yesterday. Anyone think he speaks like Tiger Woods?
    Ashcraft on the other hand screams late inning reliever to me. His delivery is not as repeatable and his fastball/slider pitch mix would play up in shorter stints. A move to the bullpen would accelerate his path to the majors. In fact, I’d bring him north with the team in this role. Stacking him with Sims and Santillan gives the bullpen a reliable young core. Cessa, Wilson, and Strickland would complement them.

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree, what I liked were his comments following the game where he noted where the batter was standing and the types of swings they were having on his pitches. Good pitchers have to read the hitter, yet many don’t or seem to struggle w/ it. It’s paramount when decided what pitch or location a pitcher should attack. It shows his maturity which is nice.

      • MuddyCleats

        In contrast, Ashcroft lacks some maturity IMO due to his inability or unwillingness to maintain his mechanics which leads to that non-repeatable delivery you spoke to and his wildness. He’s much more a thrower, but I still like his chances. He’s a bulldog too and attacks hitters – just needs to find the right balance. Considering Reds difficulty developing SP, hate to give up on a guy after all the work getting him this far. Dittos for Santillan and Sanmartin. Question is do they have the ability to compete through 5-7 innings? If not, then BP may b the best option.

  4. Bdh

    Reds just signed Hunter Strickland. Good news for the bullpen

  5. Tomn

    @MuddyCleats, why on earth would the Reds even think about giving up on Ashcraft? He’s come pretty far, pretty quick and even though he had a so-so first outing at a mlb spring training game, he still only gave up 1 run. I’m thrilled with where Lodolo, Greene and now Ashcraft are in their development. Same with Santillan. The Reds have the making of an excellent, young, core pitching staff unless they do something really stupid, which of course, they never do!

    • MuddyCleats

      Agree, exactly what I was attempting to say. I was responding to SS comments about making him a relief pitcher. I saw him twice in AA last season. He gets wild at times, a little out out of sync w/ his mechanics, but he battles back and usually gets out of trouble. Right now, he’s strictly a FB & Slider guy so hitters can eliminate soft pitches and stay geared up for something hard. Dittos for Greene. However, Greene’s FB is better so he can get away w/ a little more IMO. Lodolo hasn’t really shown a change up either, but his slider and FB combo is extremely good. Sanmartin is interesting in that he has and pitches well w/ 3 pitches and to both sides of the plate. He doesn’t have the ink others do nor does he look like a dominating SP; however, he is very effective. He’ll b interesting to watch. Mike Minor got to the ML largely on his FB – change-up mix so hopefully he’ll be able to help the young guys w/ their development

  6. DataDumpster

    Watched most of the game at MLB tv. Greene was just impressive in every way and Ashcroft showed also. First impressions see him as a 2 inning (long) reliever with perhaps Santillan. Hopefully, David Bell will open up his playbook to this possibility instead of the “no defined role” that he employed with most everyone last year. As the game got into the later innings, there were a couple of pitchers and a catcher named Okey that just couldn’t seem to get signals straight and even play pitch and catch. Why do they waste time playing these single A guys or minor league lifers? As it stands, I suppose Knapp and Mark K. are the backup catchers and neither of them have much to recommend either. A real weak link when Stephenson needs a rest.

    • MuddyCleats

      Not so sure about the catching comments. Knapp and Garcia R former top draft picks and have some ML experience and success. Oaky, 27, is also a rd two draft pick by the Reds. Kolozsvary, 26, is a 7th rd pick w/ limited Minor League ABs. Knapp is a Switch Hitter, but also 30 yrs old. Garcia, RHH, has a fair amount of pop – exactly what u want in a catcher, but also has high K rate w/ few walks. As is right now, this team is very LHH dominate. Is Stephenson the RHH 1st baseman, as I think he should be, backup catcher takes on a huge importance IMO.

      • Eddiek957

        I like the idea of Stephenson playing first against some lefthanders.

  7. MK

    Weighty issues.

    Really looked like Marinan has added some weight in the off-season. Not sure whether it is positive or negative gain. His face looked much fuller.

    It also looked the other day like Senzel has really added to his upper body. Hopefully this means added protection from injury

  8. Jim t

    Very excited to see this young staff take the next step. Also hoping Senzel can finally stay healthy and put together a full season.

    There is plenty of young talent to build around if ownership will make the commitment. Unfortunately I think that won’t happen until Shogo , Moose and Joey are off the books. It sickens me to think about where this team may have been if management would have provided Bell a few good relief pitchers last year. A terrible waste of some very nice years by some of our players to not make the playoffs.

  9. MBS

    I’m excited to see Ashcraft’s next outing. I like what I saw with his stuff, but yes, he does need to show more control. Greene was excellent, as was Sanmartin. It’s crazy to think that we also have Lodolo, and Williamson. 5 potential starters that are ready, or just around the corner.

  10. MK

    With the DH does it mean you need fewer pitcher or position players on the regular season roster.