Meet Mitch Keller: The Elite Prospect You May Not Know, But You Should

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Pirates’ Mitch Keller has quietly been emerging as one of the top pitching prospects in the game, though after 2017 the secret is probably out of the bag.  Primarily pitching between High-A and Double-A he had the full skill set on display at each level amassing all of the numbers we look for:

LevelInningsERAWHIPStrikeout RateWalk RateGroundball Rate
High-A77.13.141.007.452.3353.1%
Double-A34.23.121.0411.682.8648.1%

He owns a minor league career 9.5 K/9, so don’t be deceived by the High-A mark on it’s own.  He has the stuff to continue striking out over a batter per inning, coupled with an ability to generate groundballs (1.31 GO/AO over his minor league career) and fill the strike zone (2.5 BB/9 in the minors).

Don’t believe us when it comes to the strikeout stuff?  Just look at this scouting report courtesy of MLB.com when it comes to his stuff/maturation:

“Keller’s fastball keeps on getting better, now sitting in the low-to-mid-90s, with the ability to reach back for more. There’s a ton of sink to it and that, along with his improved changeup, elicits ground-ball outs. His 11-to-5 curve is his best secondary pitch, and he misses plenty of bats with that and his heater. Mature beyond his years, Keller has vastly improved his ability to harness his stuff and fill the strike zone with all of his pitches.”

He has the size to avoid questions about his ability to hold up to a starter’s workload, listed at 6’3” and 195 lbs.  Health, though, has been an issue since being selected in the second round of the 2014 draft.  Last season he missed time due to a strained back, after struggling with a strained forearm throughout 2015 (which limited him to 19.2 IP).

Instead of taking a step forward in innings last season he took a step back, going from 130.1 IP to 116.0 (he threw 4.0 innings at Low-A, which weren’t displayed above).  That’s something that needs to be taken into account, because it means that he’s going to be capped at around 160-165 innings in 2018.  That said he’s still just 21-years old, and will turn 22 in April of ’18, so long-term it’s not going to be an issue as long as he can prove capable of staying healthy consistently.

We already had him ranked at #16 midseason (click here for our rankings), grading him as an A- prospect.  A lock to be in the Top 15 when our new rankings come out, he could be a Top 10 prospect and is definitely an “A” grade player.  He’s quickly emerging as one of the premier prospects in the game, and the time has come for everyone to take note of it.

Grade – A

Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

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