Rum Bunter Staff Predictions for the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates: Brenden Zielinski
Best Starter - Mitch Keller
Coming into the 2022 season, Mitch Keller was on his way to being labeled as a "former top-prospect turned bust" and was coming off multiple dreadful seasons with the Pirates. From 2019-2021, Keller posted a combined 6.02 ERA, 4.30 FIP, and a 1.73 WHIP across 170.1 innings pitched and 39 starts; definitely not the best track record for Keller.
However, after a rough start to the 2022 season, Keller made changes that immediately changed his season for the better. In the second half of the season, Keller posted a 3.09ERA, 3.90FIP, struck out 61 batters, limited his walks to just 26, and had a 1.31WHIP across 70 innings pitched. Overall, Keller had a career year, and adding a lethal sinker to his pitching repertoire helped him get to that point.
His sinker was quietly one of the best sinkers in all of baseball with a -8 run value and he had better command of his breaking pitches compared to prior seasons. Keller also became a better groundball pitcher, posting a career-high 49% groundball rate, which helped limit hard contact and homerun issues. Due to his success last season, there is no reason why he shouldn't have a better season in 2023.
In spring training, Keller looked way more confident on the mound and his command looked very impressive. After being named the Opening Day starter for the first time in his career, the 26-year-old has a lot to prove to Pirates fans and I believe that he can become the best pitcher on our roster in 2023.