What else is there to even say about Mitch Keller? The former top 50 prospect has struggled mightily since making his MLB debut with the Pirates in May 2019. In 2022 it will be now or never for Keller.
In 39 career starts Keller has posted a 6.02 ERA and a 4.30 FIP in 170.1 innings pitched. He’s struck out just 22.1% of batters faced while walking batters at a 10.6% clip. What is most discouraging is that Keller’s walk rate and strikeout rate were both worse in 2021 than they were in his debut season of 2019.
Despite his struggles last season the stuff was there. Keller’s fastball was in the 60th percentile of baseball in velocity and the 75th percentile in spin rate. His curveball also flashed good stuff by being in the 72nd percentile of baseball in spin rate. However, control and placement of the pitches was an issue as opponents slugged .473 and .542 off the pitches.
This offseason Keller has been putting in the work necessary to get his career turned around. As he prepares to enter the most important season of his career, his fastball has been hitting triple digits this offseason.
Lack of talent or stuff has never been the issue for Keller. Controlling his pitches and putting it all together is what has plagued him. Can 2022 finally be the year Keller turns a corner? If he is going to have a future with the Pittsburgh Pirates then he will need it to be.