Pittsburgh Pirates: Projecting a Potential 2023 Starting Rotation
By Noah Wright
2023 Opening Day Age: 27
The first and foremost is Mitch Keller. Keller has now graduated prospect status, but started out the 2020 season as baseball’s 34th best prospect according to FanGraphs. Currently he’s probably the safest bet on who will become the team’s best starter when the Pittsburgh Pirates re-enter contention.
Keller had a solid showing in 2019. Despite his 7.19 ERA, the now 24-year-old right hander had a 3.19 FIP, 3.47 xFIP and 3.78 SIERA. He also struck out 28.6% of the batters he faced and walked only 7%. In the Majors, he also showed some really good movement with his curveball and slider. His slider is probably his best pitch with a 60 current/future grade, and had 35.9/4.1 inches of vertical and horizontal movement in 2019.
His curveball has elite drop with 56.9 inches, and 9.2 inches of horizontal movement. It and his mid-90’s fastball have a 55 future/current grade. Although his change-up is his weakest pitch, he did show a decent amount of improvement with it through his limited amount of innings in 2020.
Keller was also probably the best pitcher at Triple-A last season as he led the league in FIP (3.60), xFIP (3.87), strikeout rate (28.2%), HR/9 (0.78), was third in WHIP (1.24), and ERA (3.56) in at least 100 innings pitched..
Though Keller didn’t get off to the hottest of starts this season. But so have a lot of other good pitchers likely because of the lack of spring training and overall weirdness of the 2020 season. Plus he was recently placed on the injured list. Regardless, Keller still holds a lot of value with three pitches that are considered above average, and has the best shot at becoming the team’s next ace.