JOSE ASCANIO
RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
Born: May 2, 1985
Height: 6′ 0″
Weight: 170
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Signed: Int. FA, Atlanta Braves, 2001
How Acquired: Trade (for John Grabow/Tom Gorzelanny)
Birthplace: Maracay, Venezuela
Agent: N/A

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

The Pirates acquired Ascanio from the Cubs, along with RHP Kevin Hart and IF Josh Harrison, in exchange for LHPs John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny.  Ascanio’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and the Pirates like his sinker.  He’s become somewhat more of a groundball pitcher as he’s moved up; Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington is very found of the combination of groundballs and strikeouts.  Ascanio’s secondary pitches, a slider and change, haven’t been as effective, which may explain the fact that he’s struggled with LH batters.

2003
R:  4-0-0, 1.37 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 26.1 IP, 1.7 BB/9, 5.7 K/9

Made his US debut with the GCL Braves, making eight relief appearances.

2004

A:  3-3-9, 3.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 65.2 IP, 2.1 BB/9, 8.8 K/9

Moved up to low A and pitched well, with peripherals that were much better than his ERA.

2005
A+:  3-1-0, 6.10 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 20.2 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 5.2 K/9

Baseball America ranked Ascanio as the Braves’ 11th best prospect going into the 2005 season, stating that his fastball could get up to 97.  He missed most of the season, though, with a fracture in his back.

2006
A+:  1-1-0, 4.94 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, 31 IP, 5.8 BB/9, 6.7 K/9
AA:  4-2-0, 4.26 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 38 IP, 4.0 BB/9, 8.8 K/9

The Braves had Ascanio split his time between high A and AA, which seems pretty ambitious given his experience and the injury he was returning from.  He mostly struggled and also had disciplinary issues.  He pitched mostly as a starter in eight games in high A and as a reliever in AA.  The Braves ultimately shopped him around, although BA still rated him as their 21st best prospect going into the year.

2007
AA:  2-2-10, 2.54 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 78 IP, 2.1 BB/9, 8.2 K/9
MLB:  1-1-0, 5.06 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 16 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 7.3 K/9

Still pitching in relief, Ascanio bounced back strongly, putting up good numbers across the board, including just one HR in 78 IP.  He pitched briefly in majors and held his own, with good walk and K numbers.  The Braves traded him in the off-season to the Cubs for Will Ohman and Omar Infante.

2008
AAA:  2-1-11, 5.10 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 54.2 IP, 3.8 BB/9, 9.5 K/9
MLB
0-0-0, 7.94 ERA, 2.12 WHIP, 5.2 IP, 6.4 BB/9, 4.8 K/9

BA rated Ascanio 25th in the Cubs’ system before season, but he had a bad year pitching in relief in AAA.  He had a very good K rate, but had a gopher ball problem for the only time in his career, allowing ten.  He also struggled in six games in the majors.

2009
AAA (ChiC):  2-4-0, 3.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 51.1 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 8.2 K/9
AAA (Pgh):  0-1-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 6.2 IP, 1.4 BB/9, 12.2 K/9
MLB (ChiC):  0-1-0, 3.52 ERA, 1.76 WHIP, 15.1 IP, 5.3 BB/9, 10.6 K/9
MLB (Pgh):  0-1-0, 6.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 2.2 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 6.8 K/9

The Cubs moved Ascanio to the AAA rotation and he pitched very well in a dozen starts, with just one HR allowed in 51.1 IP.  He also got into 14 games in relief for the Cubs.  After the trade, he started one game for Indianapolis, then came to the majors.  The Pirates regarded him potentially as either a starter or reliever and wanted him to start games in September.  After two August relief appearances, though, he went out with a sore shoulder.  Rehab was supposedly going well and he was expected to pitch a couple times in relief in the season’s last week or so, but the Pirates transferred him to the 60-day DL when they claimed Anthony Claggett off waivers.  Unfortunately, it turned out the rehab hadn’t gone well at all.  Ascanio underwent labrum surgery just before the end of the season.  The surgery was considered less drastic than most labrum surgeries, as it didn’t require rotator cuff repairs.

2010
R:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 1 IP, 9.0 BB/9, 27.0 K/9
A+:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 2 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 18.0 K/9

Ascanio was expected to return in mid-2010, but he didn’t make it until August.  He made two rehab outings and then hurt his hand in an accident at home.  The injury wasn’t considered serious, but it did eliminate the rest of his rehab.

2011
A+:  0-0-0, 9.82 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.2 IP, 2.5 BB/9, 14.7 K/9
AAA:  2-3-1, 4.91 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 44 IP, 3.1 BB/9, 10.2 K/9
MLB:  0-0-0, 7.11 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, 6.1 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 7.1 K/9

Ascanio pitched briefly in winter ball and was thought to have a good chance to make the team, but he wasn’t able to pitch much during spring training, and he was out of options.  The team placed him on the 15-day disabled list to open the season, then once he was ready sent him on a 30-day rehab.  He struggled through that, then struggled in eight relief appearances when they called him up to the majors in mid-May.  A week into June the team designated Ascanio for assignment and called up Tony Watson.  He cleared waivers and was assigned to Indianapolis.  He pitched in 30 games there total, five of them starts.  His performance was variable, as you’d expect, but his walk and K numbers were good and he allowed only two HRs.  He finished the season well.  In his last seven outings, including three starts, he threw 21 innings, allowing 16 hits, six walks and four runs, and striking out 20.

The Pirates will face another tough decision with Ascanio in the off-season, when he’ll be eligible both for minor league free agency and the Rule 5 draft.  They might be able to sign him to a minor league contract for 2012, but he’d still be eligible to be drafted.  They face a significant crunch with their 40-man roster, so they probably would want to be confident that he’s healthy enough, and has his command back well enough, to pitch in the majors immediately before they add him to the roster.  Of course, he’ll also be out of options, so he’d have to make the major league roster in the spring.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2011: League Minimum
2010: $410,000
2009: $405,000
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2003
MLB Debut: 7/13/2007
MLB FA Eligible: 2014
Rule 5 Draft: Eligible
MiLB FA Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 11/18/2005
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)
MLB Service Time: 1.126
TRANSACTIONS
October 10, 2001: Signed by the Atlanta Braves as an international free agent.
November 18, 2005: Contract purchased by the Atlanta Braves.
December 4, 2007: Acquired by the Chicago Cubs from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Omar Infante and Will Ohman.
July 30, 2009: Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Chicago Cubs along with Kevin Hart and Josh Harrison in exchange for Tim Gorzelanny and John Grabow.
June 7, 2011: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates; outrighted to AAA on June 14.