MLB Pipeline is starting to release their top 10 prospect lists by position. So far they have released their top 10 right-handed pitching prospects. The Pittsburgh Pirates have a player on the list.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the middle of somewhat retooling their farm system. They have added two outfield prospects, a third base prospect, and a bullpen prospect. Even though they have not added a top pitching prospect, they still have some of their own top prospects. One of them is considered a top pitching prospects in baseball according to MLB Pipeline.
Go back to the 2014 MLB Draft. After drafting shortstop Cole Tucker in the first round, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to invest in Mitch Keller with a second round pick. They also spent a second round pick on right-handed pitcher Trey Supak. The Pittsburgh Pirates ended up trading Supak in the 2015-2016 off-season. It looks like they decided to keep the right pitcher from that draft.
Now, Mitch Keller is considered by MLB Pipeline as the number six overall right-handed pitching prospect in baseball. The big righty from Iowa pitched most of last season at High-A, but also bumped up to Double-A for their playoff push. Between the levels ( four innings of rehab in Low-A), he pitched to an 8-5 record with a 3.03 ERA. Furthermore, he struck out 116 and walked 32 in 116 innings pitched. His best pitching of the year came for the Curve in the playoffs. He made two starts and threw 16.1 innings. In those starts he only gave up two runs and struck out 12. He carried that over to the Arizona Fall League. His record was unblemished in the AFL, going 4-0 with a 1.52 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched.
Jonathan Mayo came up with the list on MLB Pipeline. With the list he provided, Mayo also mentions which pitchers possess the best tools for pitchers. Keller showed up on the best control list along with Brent Honeywell and Sixto Sanchez, although Mayo notes he is the best of the group. Mayo also says he has the highest floor of the pitchers on the list. Here is what Mayo had to say on Keller for each category:
"“Honeywell, Keller and Sanchez all have plus control, and Keller was pinpoint especially in the Arizona Fall League, but it’s hard to look past Honeywell’s career 2.0 BB/9 rate (Keller is at 2.4).”“Typically highest floor, or who has the highest likelihood of reaching his potential, goes to an advanced college type. But Keller’s stuff to go along with his outstanding command and size makes him the safest bet to meet expectations.”"
The two pretty much go hand in hand. A pitcher who is able to command his pitches, plus pitches at that, will have some success at the big league level. Keller has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a plus curveball and change up. Right now Keller has the upside to be a front line starter, if he does not ever reach that he still should be a very good number two pitcher in any rotation. For now, he is expected to be one the very elite pitching prospects in baseball.
*Also, all numbers are from baseball reference