Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Breakout Candidates for 2020

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Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates /

Starting Pitcher Mitch Keller

Last season, highly touted pitching prospect Mitch Keller made his MLB debut for the Pirates. Unfortunately for Keller and the Pirates, things did not go as planned.

In 11 starts Keller posted a 7.13 ERA in 48 innings of work. However, you have to dive much deeper than that to truly examine his season. Keller was burnt by a .475 batting average on balls in play. This was the third highest single season BAbip posted by a pitcher in MLB history. A BAbip that high is a sign of poor defense and/or luck for the pitcher.

Despite posting an ERA over 7, Keller still had a 1.3 fWAR. This was largely due to his 3.19 FIP, 7.0% walk rate, 28.6% strikeout rate, and 1.13 HR/9. All of these were better than league average.

Keller’s top of the rotation quality stuff also flashed in 2019. His fastball velocity was in the 83rd percentile in all of baseball, his curveball spin rate was in the 85th percentile, and his fastball spin rate was in the 91st percentile.

If Keller can repeat the stuff he flashed in 2019, then he will be in line for a breakout 2020 campaign. While he may not be the top of the rotation pitcher the Pirate envision him being one day, he should take steps toward becoming that. This is why Keller was highlighted as a potential extension candidate for the Pirates.