While the Cincinnati Reds faithful may be bemoaning the outlook for the 2022 season, and rightfully so, the future of the starting rotation looks very bright. While most of the attention is focus on the two former first-round picks (Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo), don't sleep on Graham Ashcraft.
Ashcraft made his spring training debut in Monday's Cactus League game versus the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander actually went three innings and his fastball was sitting in the upper-90s. Ashcraft even hit 100-MPH on the radar gun during while throwing to his first batter, Nick Madrigal.
Reds RHP Graham Ashcraft brings the heat.
Graham Ashcraft drew the start on Monday and struck out two batters while allowing just one run in three innings of work. While it's highly doubtful that the Alabama native will break camp with the major league club, if Ashcraft continues to throw the ball as well as he did on Monday, he won't be in the minors for very long.
Ashcraft did have some control issues in the second inning, as he plunked two of Chicago's right-handed hitters. But, the 24-year-old was able to compose himself and got out of the inning relatively unscathed after loading the bases with no outs. Ashcraft allowed one run to cross the plate on a fielder's choice.
Ashcraft did a terrific job of keeping the ball on the ground. The right-hander would have enjoyed a 1-2-3 inning in the first had Mike Moustakas fielded a ground ball to the left side of the infield cleanly. Instead, Ashcraft just punched out the fourth batter of the inning, Patrick Wisdom, with a backdoor breaking ball.
The second inning offered more of the same. The first batter reached on a ground ball up the middle, and the next two Cubs' hitters got aboard after being hit by pitch. Ashcraft then struck out former Reds outfield prospect Narciso Crook before inducing back-to-back ground outs to end the inning.
The third inning saw two Cubs hitters get the ball over the heads of the Reds infielders, but Willson Contreras and Patrick Wisdom's fly balls wound up harmlessly into the mitts of Shogo Akiyama and Tyler Naquin, respectively. Ashcraft also got Jason Heyward to ground out to short.
We're likely to see Graham Ashcraft begin the 2022 season at Triple-A Louisville, but he won't be there very long if he continues to dominate opposing batters the way he did on Monday. Look for Ashcraft's tenure with the Louisville Bats to be over by the All-Star break, if not sooner.