With the 51st overall pick in the 2018 MLB amateur draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected right-handed prep pitcher Braxton Ashcraft.
Ashcraft was actually rated higher than Gunnar Hoglund, who was taken with the 36th overall pick tonight. MLB Pipeline has him 64th on their list, while BA has had him ranked #58 in each of their last two updates. Both Ashcraft and Hoglund are 18-year-old prep right-handed pitchers who had a late jump in stuff, which likely led to these picks. Both are two-sport stars as well, though Ashcraft was a football player, not basketball like Hoglund. At 6’5″, 195 pounds, he has a frame that has a lot of room to fill out.
MLB Pipeline rates his stuff at 55 each (on the 20-80 scouting scale) for his fastball and his slider. His changeup ranks as a 50, as does his control. The fastball was not an above average pitch at the start of spring, but he saw a late spike in velocity, hitting 94 MPH in starts after working in the high-80s early on. Not only is the velocity nice now, with room for more, but it also has movement and he has the ability to throw it for strikes to both sides of the plate.
The slider grade seems a bit high based on reports, though it’s probably more based on the potential he displays with the pitch. Nathan Rode from Prep Baseball Report called his slider above average, while also noting that he has been as high as 95 MPH with his fastball.
Ashcraft is a very athletic player, who repeats his delivery well. There is a lot of upside here, especially once he concentrates on one sport. He has a commitment to Baylor, but you have to believe if the Pirates took him this high, ahead of where he was ranked, that commitment won’t be an issue.
Here’s a video from Baseball America: