On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Pirates recalled top prospect Mitch Keller, the 21st-ranked prospect in baseball and the fourth-highest ranked right-handed pitcher. The 23-year-old righty is expected to start Monday against the Reds in Cincinnati.
Keller was a second-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft and has slowly grown his hype over the last few seasons. His fastball touches the upper-90s and he complements that with a strong curveball. This season, he’s improved the changeup and started working on his slider, which still may not be ready to test out at the MLB level.
With injuries to other starting pitchers such as Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, it’s no surprise that the Pirates are finally giving Keller a shot in the bigs. Others such as Steven Brault and Nick Kingham have simply been horrible this season, registering ERAs of 7.11 and 8.76, respectively, in 2019. With that, the expectations for Keller are a bit tempered.
The delay in the 6-foot-2 prospect’s promotion is directly related to the struggles with his command. He’s walking 3.8 batters per nine innings with Triple-A Indianapolis this season, up from 3.5 across three levels last season. Still, he owns a solid 3.45 ERA and 10.7 K/9 alongside his 5-0 record.
Keller will get a fairly favorable start to kick off his big-league career with a matchup against the Reds. They average 4.14 runs per game, half a run fewer than the MLB average. However, they are slightly ahead of the curve with 70 homers on the year.
There’s no guarantee that Keller will stick around with the MLB staff, especially when Williams and Taillon are healthy again. Still, it’ll be a good test to see how far the phenom has progressed at the Triple-A level this season. Should he stick around for at least another start — which he likely will — he’ll make his home debut next weekend against a lethal Milwaukee Brewers club.