Young Major League Arms on the Rise
Mitch Keller’s breakout is highly overlooked by many. By the end of the season, he was a top-15 pitcher in the National League. After struggling heavily at the start of the year, Keller changed things up and added a sinker to his arsenal. By the time June rolled around, Keller was favoring his sinkerball over his four-seamer.
From May 25th (the first time he used his sinker often) through the end of the season, Keller owned a 3.20 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 1.35 WHIP in 123.2 innings. While his strikeout rate of 20.5% was well below the league average, he had a decent 8.7% walk rate and allowed just nine home runs for a .65 HR/9. He induced ground balls 50% of the time with an 88.0 MPH exit velocity, the former in the elite range and the ladder close to average.
Among qualified NL starters in this stretch, Keller had a lower ERA than the likes of Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, Corbin Burnes, and Adam Wainwright. On average, he gave up fewer home runs than ground ball merchants like Chris Bassitt and Kyle Wright. His FIP was also the 16th-best in the NL.
Pairing with Keller at the top of the rotation is Roansy Contreras. A consensus top-100 prospect entering the 2022 campaign, Contreras posted a decent 3.79 ERA and 1.27 WHIP but a mediocre 4.38 FIP. Contreras had a 21.1% strikeout rate, 9.6% walk rate, and 1.23 HR/9. But a good portion of his struggles can be traced back to one start in which he allowed seven earned runs on three home runs in just 1.2 innings. Outside of that one outing, Contreras had a 3.18 ERA and a .94 HR/9 rate.
Contreras’s strikeouts being below the league average wasn’t promising, but you have to remember he was only in his age-22 campaign and just turned 23 earlier this November. Contreras had a tremendous 33.1% strikeout rate at Triple-A and well above average chase and whiff rate (32.5%/top 81st percentile and 27.5%/top 61st percentile, respectively). Contreras should be a fun pitcher to watch next year, and by the end of the season, he could be one of the better pitchers in the league.