Mitch Keller Receives Promotion to Double-A Altoona

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Prospect News: The Pittsburgh Pirates have made numerous promotions of prospects lately.  The latest prospect to get moved up a level is top pitching prospect Mitch Keller.

Mitch Keller has pitched most of the season for the Pittsburgh Pirates High-A affiliate.  He had a rough start to the year, but has settled down nicely since returning from an early season injury. Sean McCool, the Altoona Curve writer for Pirates Prospects, has reported that Keller is being promoted to Double-A.

Keller will join the Curve, who were also joined by former first round pick Cole Tucker just a few weeks ago.  Both Keller and Tucker were drafted out of high school in the 2014 draft, and, respectively, were the Pittsburgh Pirates first and second round picks that year.

Number at High-A

The right-handed pitching prospect made 15 starts for the Bradenton Marauders this year, pitching a total of 77.1 innings.  Keller went 6-4 with a 3.14 ERA while striking out 64 and walking 20.  He also had a xFIP of 3.33, suggesting that his numbers are right where they should be.  Meanwhile, Keller was doing this while being about two years younger than the Florida State League average age.  Keller is just 21 years old, and is already going to be heading to Double-A.  That just shows how advanced he is as a pitcher for his age.

Change in Approach?

The biggest change for Keller at High-A was that he saw his strikeout rate go down.  Last year at Low-A, he was striking out 10.5 batters per nine innings, this year at High-A he posted a rate of 7.45.  Although nobody wants to see that dramatic of a change in strikeout rate, Keller has seen improvement in another area.  Last year at Low-A he was inducing a ground ball rate of 46.7 percent, which is solid, but not outstanding.  This year his ground ball percentage is at 53.1. Why the increase?  Well, the Pittsburgh Pirates develop pitcher by teaching them to pitch to contact.  After proving in Low-A that he can strike players out, the Bucs may have had him focusing on throwing more pitches in the zone and inducing ground balls.  Obviously, he was able to do that effectively this year.

Next: Nick Kingham Is Ready For His Debut

Looking Ahead

Mitch Keller pitched very well in Bradenton.  The Florida State League is known as being tough on hitters.  The Florida State league has the lowest ERA of any of the levels, as the league has a collective 3.49 ERA.  But given Keller’s age and experience in the professional levels, it is good to see him pitch well against players coming from the college ranks, and promising that he is getting called up to pitch a half season at the Double A level at just 21 years old.  By this time next year, Keller will likely be the Pittsburgh Pirates consensus number one prospect and one step away from joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.