Mitch Keller is moving up through the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system.

Since the beginning of last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation has embraced a youth movement. With debuts of the likes of Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams and Steven Brault since the start of 2017, the Bucs rotation continues to get younger and is deep with potential.

The organization also has some talent within their minor league system with young stars such as Clay Holmes, Nick Kingham, Taylor Hearn and their 2017 first round draft pick, Shane Baz.

However, one pitching prospect stands amongst the rest. And he’s moving through the minor league system and could end up in Pittsburgh sooner rather than later.

It was first reported by Sean McCool of Pirates Prospects that Pirates top pitching prospect Mitch Keller, a second round draft pick in 2014, was being promoted to Double-A Altoona.

We at Pirates Breakdown were able to confirm McCool’s report and believe the move to promote Keller at this time is the right choice given the quick impact he could have in Pittsburgh in the next few seasons.

The No. 22 ranked prospect according to MLB.com, Keller has had a nice 2017 season despite some injuries. After starting the year at the Class A Advanced level with the Bradenton Marauders, Keller missed over a month after he was placed on the disabled list with a back strain.

The 21-year old rehabbed over a period of two games with the West Virginia Black Bears, the Class A short season affiliate for the Pirates. After pitching four scoreless innings for the Black Bears, Keller returned to Bradenton and went 3-1 with a 3.78 ERA in six July starts.

In 15 starts for Bradenton this season, Keller is 6-3 with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Hitters are batting .207 against the young right hander this season and he has struck out 64 while walking 20 in 77.1 innings pitched. He has also posted a 3.51 FIP. If he were in the majors, that FIP number would rank him 14th best in all of baseball.

In 56 career minor league appearances, Keller has posted a 2.75 ERA along with a 1.06 WHIP. Despite having lingering injury issues throughout his first and second seasons as a professional and again this season, Keller is highly touted within the Pirates organization.

A main reason for that is his control, which has improved throughout his professional career. At Bradenton this season, Keller’s BB/9 rate sits a 2.3 while his K/9 is at a modest 7.4. Keller, whose arsenal includes a fastball and a curveball, has also developed a nice changeup that has allowed him to improve his ground ball percentage from around 47 percent to 53.1 percent at Bradenton this season.

While plenty of young arms are on the rise for the Pirates, none may be more highly viewed upon as Keller. Though his estimated time of arrival in Pittsburgh is next season according to MLB.com, it may be a stretch that he is in a Pirates uniform next season. However, he could very well impress with Altoona, move up to Indianapolis for the beginning of next season and receive a September call up at the end of 2018.

All indications point to Keller finishing this season in Altoona, possibly starting the year with the Curve and receiving a call up to Indianapolis at some point next season, thus making him ready to possibly make his MLB debut in 2019.

While it’s uncertain what the exact timeline for Keller or any prospect for that matter is, it’s encouraging to see the aggressiveness of the Pirates organization. While the current state of the major league club is in disarray as of late, there is still a good amount of talent in the minor league system.

Keller is the best of the best the Pirates system has to offer and they have taken notice. With his promotion up to Altoona, it would be wise for the organization to continuing keeping a close watch on the young prospect as he continues to develop on his way to possibly becoming a piece of the puzzle at the major league level in the next few years.

Jose Negron

Jose Negron is a 22 year old journalist from the North Huntingdon area. A recent graduate of California University of Pennsylvania, Jose has written for Rumbunter and Pirates Breakdown for the past year. He is the former Editor in Chief and Sports Editor of Cal U's campus newspaper, the Cal Times. He also covers high school sports for the Mon Valley Independent and serves as a contributor for Pittsburgh Sporting News, covering the Pirates. During the summer of 2015, he also interned with TribLive Radio, writing for their online blog, helping in the production of various radio shows and even appearing on the air.
  • grandslam

    This is not an aggressive move by any means. If Keller had not been injured earlier in the year, he would have moved up a month ago.

    • leadoff

      He might have been moved up or not. The progress of that 3rd pitch had a lot to do with him moving anywhere. Of course you could say without his injury the progress of the development of the 3rd pitch would have been sooner. Could also make a case that at his age they may of thought more time in A ball was necessary.

  • leadoff

    Keller is only 21, very young to be pitching against much older players.

  • piratemike

    Here we go again……..Over hyping a minor leaguer. Just like Glasnow , Brault and the rest.
    We’ll be lucky to see them by 2020 as relief pitchers.

  • redrage97

    people talking about his ‘young’ age he’s 21. Glasnow debuted at 22, Cole at 22, Nova at 23, Scherzer at 23, Taijuan Walker 20.. even if he got a September call up.. it wouldn’t be to early, based on age alone. really age wise he should probably be in AAA to start next season baring major setbacks and he continues to develop his pitches. while staying healthy