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NY Post
New York Post
1 Apr 2023


NextImg:Reds’ pitcher Graham Ashcraft’s upside shouldn’t be ignored in fantasy baseball

There’s very little in the world more frustrating than being ignored.

If you have been ghosted after several successful dates, you’re curious to know why.

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If you ask a family member a question via text and he or she doesn’t respond immediately, despite the read receipt saying the message was read almost instantly, you want to know why.

Though it happens to all of us, being ignored stinks. It makes you feel unwanted or unheard, even though you know you have plenty to offer.

That was the case for Reds pitchers who went largely ignored in fantasy drafts.

The only names that popped up were Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Alexis Diaz.

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That likely is because not much is expected from the Reds: Cincinnati plays half its games in a hitter-friendly park, and the staff owned a 4.86 ERA, the third-worst mark in the majors, while allowing the second-most homers in the league (213) and issuing the most walks (612) in 2022.

Nevertheless, Roto Rage believes there is one more Red who shouldn’t be ignored.

Over 19 starts last season, Graham Ashcraft went 5-6 with a 4.89 ERA, a 6.5 percent walk rate and an 8.4 percent swinging-strike rate.

His strikeout rate (15.3 percent) ranked in the bottom 6 percent of the league, and his maximum exit velocity (115.9 mph) was in the bottom 5 percent.

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The numbers aren’t pretty, but there is reason to believe the Reds’ No. 3 starter has far more upside than reflected in his rookie campaign.

Cincinnati Reds’ Graham Ashcraft throws against the St. Louis Cardinals
AP

Ashcraft, who will make his 2023 debut on Sunday, allowed five earned runs over 17 ¹/₃ spring innings, finishing the exhibition season with a 2.60 ERA.

He also walked just two batters, had a 0.87 WHIP and owned a .197 opponents average.

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Perhaps the most impressive number was his 13 strikeouts per nine innings, highlighted by his 10-strikeout effort over six scoreless innings against San Diego on March 22.

Now, some of you might be saying, “Wait, you’re basing Ashcraft’s potential on spring statistics?” Well, yes … and no.

The strikeout potential is nothing new, as Ashcraft struck out 10.3 per nine innings over three seasons in the minors.

The 2016 sixth-round pick was also 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA and 1.276 WHIP in that span.

Ashcraft’s groundball rate (54.5 percent) ranked eighth in the majors among pitchers who threw a minimum of 100 innings, one spot ahead of NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara.

(Oh, in that March 22 spring outing mentioned earlier, he had eight groundball outs.)

His xERA (4.02), FIP (4.21) and xFIP (4.09) were 60 points or more below his ERA, which indicates he was unlucky.

Reds

Graham Ashcraft
AP

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Ashcraft has a four-pitch arsenal (cutter, slider, sinker, changeup), and his cutter and sinker both average about 97 mph and top out at 101 mph.

Opponents hit .285 against his cutter (.270 xBA), which he deployed 50.7 percent of the time.

They had more success against his sinker hitting .313 with just an 11.1 percent whiff rate (though he did have a .278 xBA, so hitters got a little lucky). He threw that pitch 21.5 percent of the time.

Aschcraft did most of his damage with his slider, a pitch he threw 27.1 percent of the time and opponents hit .235 against it with a .229 expected batting average.

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The slider carried a 32 percent whiff rate, and it was his put-away pitch 21.3 percent of the time.

He also reportedly retooled his grip for that pitch this offseason.

Now just imagine if Ashcraft manages to keep his walks in check, continues to throw strikes and induce groundballs, and also increases his strikeout rate.

If that happens, it’s going to be hard to ignore him.

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This is one pitcher to keep on your radar.

Corbin Carroll OF, D’backs

Not only did he hit .370 over 46 spring at-bats, he led the majors in triples (three), runs (15), walks (13), on-base percentage (.508) and OPS (1.138). He was also 5-for-5 in stolen bases attempts.

Yusei Kikuchi SP, Blue Jays

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Struck out 12.5 per nine innings with a .130 opponents average, 0.87 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. All that helped overshadow his ugly 5.0 walks per nine.

Braves

Ozzie Albies delivers an RBI single against the Nationals.
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Ozzie Albies 2B, Braves

Showed little rust this spring after playing in just 64 games in 2022 because of a broken foot, hitting .300 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a .970 OPS.

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Shane Bieber SP, Guardians

Followed a stellar spring (1.54 ERA, 25-2 K-BB, .163 opponents average) with a solid opener in which he pitched six scoreless innings.

Eric Lauer SP, Brewers

Better hope spring training wasn’t a sign of things to come, as he had an 11.57 ERA with a 2.49 WHIP and .407 opponents average.

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Chris Taylor OF/2B, Dodgers

Not only did he strike out 25 times in 57 spring at-bats, the second-most in the majors, he hit .158 with a .627 OPS.

Red Sox
Tanner Houck
AP

Tanner Houck SP, Red Sox

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Though he struck out 11.1 per nine innings over 20 ¹/₃ exhibition innings, he walked 5.3 per nine and allowed 22 earned runs (9.74 ERA). He hit five batters, allowed nine homers and owned a 1.92 WHIP.

Bryan Reynolds OF, Pirates

He went-1-for-4 with an RBI in the Pirates’ season-opening win after going 10-for-52 (.192) with 13 strikeouts and .615 OPS in training camp.

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