Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #8 – Mitch Keller

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To recap the countdown so far:

20. Luis Heredia, RHP
19. JaCoby Jones, SS
18. Willy Garcia, OF
17. Clay Holmes, RHP
16. Gage Hinsz, RHP
15. Trey Supak, RHP
14. Cody Dickson, LHP
13. John Holdzkom, RHP
12. Adrian Sampson, RHP
11. Harold Ramirez, OF
10. Elias Diaz, C
9. Cole Tucker, SS

We continue the countdown with the number 8 prospect, Mitch Keller.

8. Mitch Keller, RHP

Mitch Keller was hitting 95 MPH during his first professional season.
Mitch Keller was hitting 95 MPH during his first professional season.

The Pirates loaded up on plenty of over-slot prep pitchers from 2008-2011 when there were no restrictions on draft spending. Even with the restrictions over the last few years, they have managed to find a way to keep adding these over-slot guys. Mitch Keller was one of three top prep pitchers signed by the Pirates in the 2014 draft, and he ranks as the best of the bunch. You could even go a step further and say that he ranks ahead of every other prep pitcher they’ve drafted since the rules changed for the 2012 draft.

Keller isn’t your typical projectable right-hander, mostly because there’s not much need for projection. He already saw a velocity increase during high school, jumping from the mid-to-upper 80s, to the 90-92 MPH range, and touching 95.

His pro debut saw him hitting 95 MPH routinely with his fastball, although he doesn’t maintain that velocity, and usually ranges from 87-95 in his starts. As he fills out and matures, he should be able to maintain the higher velocity. He did have some command issues at times this year, leading to bouts of wildness, and that will be a focus for him as he moves up in the lower levels. The pitch has a lot of movement, so it’s hard to say whether that is the reason for the command issues. He has a smooth and repeatable delivery, which should help his command.

Along with the fastball, Keller has two good secondary pitches, throwing a curveball and a changeup. His curveball has a lot of late break, and is thrown with good command. The pitch has the potential to be an above-average offering. The fact that he has a good feel for a changeup is impressive, since most high school pitchers with a fastball that reaches 95 and a good curve don’t need a changeup.

The Pirates have been a bit more conservative with their prep pitchers over the last few years. In the past, they would send a prep pitcher to the New York-Penn League during his first full season, after spending some development time in extended Spring Training. They’ve gotten away from that approach in the last two years, although Keller could be an exception. His current stuff, plus his feel for a changeup makes him more advanced than the other guys who have gone through the system, and the Pirates could choose to challenge his arm with an aggressive promotion.

It’s too early to pinpoint Keller’s upside. He has the chance to be a number two or three starter in the majors, although there’s still more room for projection. He’s a bit more polished than most of the prep pitchers the Pirates have drafted, and should be one of the top guys to follow in the lower levels in 2015.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Nathan Swartz

Christian Walker (sarcasm…but it would’ve been awesome)

Hopefully a 2014 draft pick.


Could be that Tarpley just moved Keller down a notch.


My guess is that Tarpley will be about 18 in our system,


Hopefully the PTBNL in the Snider trade is Mitch Keller’s brother Jon. Jon is a high-strikeout pitcher who seems likely to at least have a future as a short reliever, and possibly as a starter.


The PTBNL is not Jon Keller


Sorry… I didn’t realize we had a resident psychic.


Does anyone have a logical explanation for the PTBNL being something other than a 2014 draft pick? I haven’t seen one. If it is anything else then the player would have been named already.


Maybe the Pirates need more time to scout the players they might be interested in. They probably narrowed it down to 2 or 3 players that they could choose from at a future date. The players they have to choose from might also depend on Snider winning the starting job.


Is that type of trade (future players based on outcome of the 1st part) legal in MLB? I know you can do it in hockey and football, not sure I can recall a baseball trade where the compensation increased or decreased based on performance. I suppose they could be interested in a guy with questionable medicals and they want to see him healthy at ST next month?

John Dreker

I would say it is a 2014 draft based on what Huntington said about it. He said something to the effect that he likes both players they got, which I take to mean that he already knows who it is. If that logic is correct, then it would appear to be a player that can’t be dealt yet, which would make it a draft pick.


Where would Tarpley fall in these ranking now? Would he even be a top 20?

John Dreker

That is being discussed right now while we put together all the info and get everyone’s opinion.

John Dreker

If you want to see Keller for yourself, check out his start from August 12th. We have video of every pitch he threw that day, on his way to six strikeouts over four shutout innings

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