At last… the emergence of Mitch Keller
When it comes to the limited positives for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 2022 season the biggest may have been Mitch Keller. The former consensus top 50 prospect had struggled throughout his MLB career, but finally turned a corner in 2022.
Keller pitched 159 innings in 31 appearances, 29 of which were starts. All of these were new career highs. Keller also posted a career best 3.91 ERA. His 8.7% walk rate, 20.1% strikeout rate, and 3.88 FIP were all his best since 2019, and he was worth a career best 2.0 WAR.
Even the eye test would tell you Keller had the best season of his career and turned a corner. Unlike in past years, when Keller got into trouble on the mound he often times pitched out of it instead of wilting.
Keller may never be the no. 1 top of the rotation starting pitcher many once hoped he would be, but he appears to be developing into a very solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher. Following a brief bullpen stint, Keller posted a 3.22 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 8.8% walk rate and a 20.7% strikeout rate across his final 22 starts. If Keller can pitch this way for a full season worth of starts in 2023, then the Pirate rotation as a hole should take a big step forward in 2023.