After the game on Saturday afternoon, Cincinnati Reds manager told the assembled media that Graham Ashcraft would be the starting pitcher on Sunday. Ashcraft, the Reds #5 rated prospect, will be starting in place of Connor Overton who is reportedly dealing with back soreness.
Sunday will be the Major League debut for Graham Ashcraft. The big right-handed starter was Cincinnati’s 6th round draft pick in 2019 and he’s made a quick rise through the farm system when we consider that there was no 2020 season. Last year he split time between High-A Dayton and Double-A Chattanooga where he posted a 3.00 ERA in 111.0 innings over 22 starts. At one point he didn’t allow an earned run for 44 consecutive innings.
This season he’s spent the full year with the Triple-A Louisville Bats. He’s made seven starts with Louisville and posted a 1.65 ERA in 32.2 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .240/.333/.248 against him. And no, that is not a typo. He has allowed just one extra-base hit – a double – in 150 plate appearances this season. Ashcraft’s 71.2% ground ball rate is the best in minor league baseball in 2022.
For the most part you’re going to see Graham Ashcraft work with a fastball that works 97-99 on most days and has touched 101, a cutter, and a low-80’s slider. All three pitchers are above-average or better. At times you will also see a change up, though it doesn’t show up all that frequently and it’s almost always going to be against left-handed hitters. Ashcraft will also show a curveball at times. For the most part he throws strikes, though he has had two starts this year where he struggled to find the zone. Often he’s got more control than he does command (throws strikes, but misses in the zone). The stuff can be good enough for that to work when he’s at his best.
Ashcraft is a “substitute” player on this road trip to Toronto. He’ll head back to Triple-A once the series wraps up unless the team makes a 40-man roster move to add him and then also calls him up to the 26-man roster. That could very well happen depending on what happens between tomorrow and the next time that Connor Overton needs to pitch in a game and how his back feels. Mike Minor should be ready to join the rotation this next week, so that is also going to be in play.