A lot of focus and chatter among fans seems to centered around which pitching prospect(s) will join the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation in 2022. While Reiver Sanmartin, Hunter Greene, and Nick Lodolo are all good choices, don't sleep on Graham Ashcraft.
Ashcraft, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016, chose instead to honor his college commitment and attended Mississippi State University. Unfortunately, a hip injury that required surgery limited the right-hander to just 10 games with the Bulldogs.
Will Graham Ashcraft make his Reds debut in 2022?
Ashcraft eventually transferred to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and after missing over a year due to injury, the Alabama native returned to the mound and 2-5 with a 5.63 ERA over 56 innings pitched with the Blazers.
The Reds took a flier on Graham Ashcraft in the sixth-round of the 2019, and though he missed out on the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the former UAB hurler showed enough raw talent and maturation to warrant starting the 2021 season at Advanced-A Dayton.
Ashcraft bullied opposing batters while toeing the rubber for the the Dragons last season. In eight starts, Ashcraft posted a 12.80 K/9, 2.33 ERA, 2.25 FIP, and had a 34.2% strikeout-rate. The righty also failed to surrender a single round tripper while at Advanced-A Dayton last season.
Ashcraft was promoted to Double-A Chattanooga and went 20 straight innings without allowing a run. During that span he struck out 19 hitters and allowed just 12 of the 68 batters he faced to reach base safely.
The wheels came off in Graham Ashcraft's fourth start for the Lookouts, as he allowed seven earned runs on five hits while striking out three and walking three more. Ashcraft lasted just one inning, but got back to his old ways during the following two starts where the 23-year-old struck out 13 batters over 13 innings, walked just one and didn't allow a run to cross the plate.
Graham Ashcraft will likely begin his season at Triple-A Louisville.
Graham Ashcraft ended his 2021 season with Double-A Chattanooga going 7-3 with a 3.36 ERA and 74 punch outs over 72.1 innings of work. It's very likely we'll see Ashcraft begin his 2022 campaign at Triple-A Louisville.
Ashcraft consistently pitches in the mid-to-upper 90s and can could 100-MPH on the radar gun. Ashcraft uses a slider as well and will turn to his changeup on rare occasions, which leads a lot of scouts to believe that Ashcraft will eventually find a home in the bullpen with a solid two-pitch mix.
I look at Graham Ashcraft in a very similar light to Tony Santillan; a hulking hurler who has plenty of zip on his fastball, but has failed to really develop a third pitch. Unless Ashcraft can find ways to incorporate that changeup a bit more, I'm afraid the best case scenario is for the right-hander to find a role in the Cincinnati bullpen.
However, if Ashcraft enters this spring having worked on his secondary pitches over the offseason, there's an outside chance that he could join the Cincinnati Reds rotation at some point in 2022. With Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Tyler Mahle all drawing significant trade interest, a spot in the rotation may open up by early August.