To be quite honest the 2021 season may have already been a make or break season for Mitch Keller. If it was, then eh certainly broke his chances of still being viewed as a long-term building block for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Keller posted a 6.17 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 10.4% walk rate and he averaged just 4.3 innings in his 23 starts. For his career Keller now owns a 6.02 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 10.6% walk rate and just a 22.1% strikeout rate in 39 starts. In these 39 starts he’s pitched just 170.1 innings, which comes out to just 4.3 innings per start.
After struggling to start the 2021 season Keller was demoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. This, however, did not appear to help as Keller went on to continue to struggle upon his return to the Majors in August.
A one time top-50 prospect in all of baseball Keller has been nothing short of a disappointment thus far in his MLB career. While he may enter Spring Training with an opportunity to earn a spot in the Pirate starting rotation, he should not be guaranteed a spot.
If Keller struggles in the spring he should start the season in the rotation at Triple-A, or perhaps in the Pirate bullpen. There is a possibility that with a move to the bullpen Keller’s stuff could play up to help him overcome his control issues.