The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted RHP Mitch Keller with the 64th overall pick in the 2014 draft and signed him right away to a $1,000,000 bonus. One of the few perks to the new draft rules since 2012, is getting players into the system quicker and getting them playing time that same year. Under the old rules, Keller would probably be signing this Friday, using the old August 15th signing deadline date. On Tuesday afternoon in the Gulf Coast League, Keller made his seventh appearance and it was his best so far. He went four shutout innings, giving up two singles, one hit batter, no walks and he picked up six strikeouts.
Keller has now thrown a total of 19.1 innings, with today’s outing being his longest start as a pro. The amount of innings for young HS pitchers are usually very limited in the GCL their first year, so he is right on pace for the 20-25 innings they shoot for with them. Last year, draft picks Billy Roth, Neil Kozikowski and Blake Taylor all threw between 19.1 and 24 innings. The GCL Pirates have 14 more games left on their schedule, which means Keller will probably make two more starts before the season ends.
The 18-year-old 6’3″ Keller, has some nice stats his rookie season, posting a 1.40 ERA, with a 6/20 BB/SO ratio and an excellent 1.33 ground ball rate. His walk total is even skewed by one poor outing in which he issued four walks, so his command has been very strong otherwise.
Early firsthand accounts of his outings have been very positive and Keller is the type of projectable high upside pitcher you can dream on. He throws an easy 90-94 MPH, touching 95 and has the frame to add muscle and velocity. He throws a curve and change-up that should both be at least average. Some had him as the best player the Pirates took in this year’s draft(myself included) and he’s done nothing to change that thought.
We are lucky enough to have plenty of video from Keller’s performance today, which includes every pitch he threw, all courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. The catcher for the Pirates is 18-year-old prospect Yoel Gonzalez.
Strikeout from the first inning
Slow Chopper to First Base
Fly Ball to Tito Polo
Long At-Bat Here
Final Pitch of the Previous At Bat
Second Strikeout of the Game
Third Strikeout of the Day
Strikes Out the Side in the Second
Part Two of the Outing
The first seven videos above covered the first two innings. Here are videos from the last two innings.
Keller Doing What Pirates Batters Do Best….Pitching Inside
Strikeout Five in a Long At-Bat
He Didn’t Retire Every Batter
One Pitch Ground Outs Are Always Welcomed
Fly Out to End the Third
Fly Ball to Center Field
(note: this was an error by Michael de la Cruz, not a double)
Another Fly Ball
Final Out of His Outing, Strikeout Number Six
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.