Pittsburgh Pirates: AFL All-Star Game Recap

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates had two prospects play in the Arizona Fall League All-Star game last night.  How did their minor league players do?

Last night at 8 P.M. EST, the Arizona Fall League All-Star game was played.  The game was shown on the MLB Network, which was a good chance for baseball fans to see many of the up and coming talents in the game for the first time.  This includes two Pittsburgh Pirates prospects in Mitch Keller and Kevin Kramer.

Mitch Keller started the game for the Western All-Stars.  He earned the start after being absolutely dominant through the first part of the Fall League season.  His current ERA for the regular season is sitting at a 1.70 through 15.2 innings.  He was on the mound in the bottom half of the innings sporting the Pittsburgh Pirates gray jersey, with his Glendale Desert Dog hat.  Keller somewhat struggled in his first inning of work.

First inning Recap

To start the game, he walked Victor Robles on five pitchers. Robles then promptly stole second base.  Then top Brewer’s prospect Corey Ray hit a groundball up toward the middle, the second baseman got to it, but did not have a play to first.  Then with the Orioles’ Ryan Mountcastle at the plate, Ray stole second base.  After that, Mountcastle hit a groundball to short to score the game’s first run, driving in Robles. Ray then stole third base before Yankees’ prospect Brett McKinley flew out to center. Ray held at third.  This brought up top outfield prospect Kyle Tucker from the Astros’ organization.  Tucker worked a walk off Keller to put runners at first and third.  However, Keller finally got out of it by inducing a groundball to shortstop by Mets catching prospect Tomas Nido.

Second Inning Recap

The second inning went a lot smoother for Keller.  He sat down the Eastern League All-Stars in order.  Keller got the first out on a groundball back to the mound.  He then recorded the second out on a hard hit fly ball to right field.  Dodgers prospect Yusniel Diaz tracked it well and made a nice running catch.  The last out was soft chopper to the right of the mound that Keller played and flipped to first.  He did not record a strikeout in his two innings of work.

Observations

Although Keller struggled with command on paper, the umpire did not do him any favors.  The ump was not giving any space on the outside part of the plate, or high in the zone.  Keller threw multiple fastballs within an inch of the outside corner and they were consistently called for balls.  Meanwhile, the opposing hitters were not swinging either.  He also had two fastballs up in the strike zone that were not called.  His catcher did not help him much either on the stolen bases.  Max Pentecost, the Blue Jays prospect, bounced the ball to second on Robles attempt, then on Ray’s attempt for third base, Pentecost threw the ball on the foul side of third base, giving the third baseman no chance at a tag.

With all that being said, Keller’s stuff looked rather impressive.  His fastball sat 95-96 and hit as high as 97.  His mechanics looked smooth, consistent, and rather effortless.  One note that Jonathan Mayo made, that I also agree with, is Keller’s fastball could still increase in velocity as he matures.  His arm action is so effortless and yet he is throwing mid-90s.  His curveball is a rather big, traditional hook.  He was throwing it in the range of 79-81 and induced several groundballs with it. Keller had some tough luck in the first inning, but one could see why he is rated as one of the top pitching prospects.  He may have had some nerves entering the first inning, being on national TV for the first time, and facing a loaded lineup.  Still, he got his feet under him, limited the damage, and came out and pitched a clean second inning after a mentally trying first.

Next: Should the Bucs look at Healy?

Kevin Kramer

Kevin Kramer also played in the game as a substitution at second base.  He only received one at-bat.  He was 0-1 in the game. The Pittsburgh Pirates top second base prospect in MLB.com’s rankings grounded out to first base. Kramer entering last weekend was hitting up over .280, but he has seen his average sink this week due to a 2-21 slump.  Hopefully, he can get back on track after experiencing the all-star game.