Morning Report: Mitch Keller Has Struggled Recently Despite Solid Overall Stats

Mitch Keller has put up some strong stats this season for West Virginia. He is doing it as one of the younger players in the South Atlantic League and he is also doing it after struggling at Bristol last year. It has been a great season for the top lower level pitcher in the system. Keller ranks tenth in the league with a 2.87 ERA, sixth with 85 strikeouts, and first with an 0.88 WHIP. Those are great stats for his age, but a deeper look into his stats tells a different story this season.

In his last seven starts, Keller has a 5.08 ERA over 33.2 innings, with a .260 BAA. Despite the high ERA, he has a 7:37 BB/SO ratio and has given up just two home runs. As the innings total tells you, he is averaging less than five innings per start.

In his first seven starts this year, Keller had a 1.10 ERA in 41 innings, with a .156 BAA. Opponents had a .384 OPS. He had a 3:48 BB/SO ratio and gave up two homers, both coming in the same game. I was actually at that game with the two homers. One of them was wind-aided, while the other one was crushed into the wind the other way and still made it out easily.

He has been picking up strikeouts at about the same rate in each of those seven game stretches. The walk rate is great in both time frames and he isn’t allowing home runs, so he is still doing a lot right despite the huge difference in ERA. The .260 BAA isn’t great, but it’s also far from the worst you will see. Keller clearly isn’t as bad as what we have seen lately, and a 1.10 ERA is unsustainable over a long stretch. From seeing him in person and watching a few of his starts online, plus from the scouting reports I’ve received from other games, I think the real Mitch Keller is closer to the one you see if you only look at the overall stats for the season.

**The article by Brian Peloza last night about uncomfortable at-bats against Glasnow reminded me of seeing Duke Welker pitch in 2010 in Low-A. I saw Welker the year before as a starter and he was just wild with no real positive signs except good velocity for a starter. The next year he was a 24-year-old reliever and I got to see him twice. Usually I watch a pitcher from behind home plate, but it was late in the game and I sat down in the stands down the third base line. I was watching Welker pitch, but not really analyzing anything with him because I figured his prospect ship sailed at that point. You don’t hear too many success stories that start with a “24-year-old reliever in Low-A”.

So Welker throws his first pitch and gets a swinging strike and I glance at the radar, which read 95 MPH (he eventually hit 97). Next one another swinging strike. Then he throws a curve and the batter was swinging fastball and missed it by about ten feet. That’s when I watched and realized just what it was like for a 6’7″ pitcher striding towards the plate throwing gas. He pitched two innings that series and was still a little wild, so you could tell these batters weren’t comfortable. Every time he threw that off-speed pitch though, they had absolutely no chance. You could just see at that point that he had Major League potential when it seemed like there was nothing there the year before.

It was really eye-opening to see what height, velocity, and a little bit of wildness could do for someone. I know you’re wondering, so I’ll save you some trouble. Welker is pitching in Triple-A for the Giants with a 3.42 ERA in 26.1 innings over 24 appearances, with 25 strikeouts.

**The Pittsburgh Pirates released pitcher Clario Perez, who was suspended for 80 games back in December due to testing positive for Stanozolol, a PED. Perez was re-signed as a minor league free agent this off-season (before the failed test) after reaching free agency for the first time. The Pirates did him a favor by holding on to him until now because he has now served his suspension. If they released him back when it occurred, he would have to wait until he signed with a team before starting to serve his suspension.

**I got word that Rinku Singh hasn’t thrown since his one inning on Friday, when he made his first appearance in four years. He has been dealing with soreness in his pitching arm. No word on the severity, but it doesn’t sound like he will be throwing again in the immediate future. He was also shutdown once during Extended Spring Training this year due to soreness.

PIRATES GAME GRAPH


Source: FanGraphs

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won 7-5 over the Cardinals on Wednesday night. They now go to Tyler Glasnow for his Major League debut. Do I really have to tell you about Glasnow? Check out this article from Tim Williams last night for more info. The Cardinals will counter with Adam Wainwright, who has a 4.70 ERA in 103.1 innings, with 77 strikeouts and a 1.35 WHIP. He threw seven shutout innings against the Brewers in his last start. Wainwright has faced the Pirates twice this year, allowing a total of six runs over 12.1 innings.

In the minors, a lot is going on today. Bristol has a doubleheader. Bradenton will resume a suspended game, then play their regularly scheduled contest. Indianapolis has no starter announced due to Glasnow being called up.

As for the pitchers going, we have two big prospects tonight. I already talked about Mitch Keller above, but didn’t mention that Clay Holmes is also going and he’s been on a strong run lately. Over his last four starts, he has allowed three earned runs over 24 innings, with 26 strikeouts. Holmes has a 3.00 GO/AO ratio this season, best among all starters in the system.

Fifth round pick Blake Cederlind will go for Bristol in one game of the doubleheader, with no starter named for the second game. Morgantown has off today.

MLB: Pittsburgh (44-41) @ Cardinals (43-41) 1:45 PM
Probable starter: Tyler Glasnow (MLB Debut)

AAA: Indianapolis (46-41) vs Toledo (37-49) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD

AA: Altoona (46-38) @ Akron (49-38) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clay Holmes (4.40 ERA, 34:63 BB/SO, 86.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (43-38) @ Ft Myers (43-39) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Tanner Anderson (1.80 ERA, 2:1 BB/SO, 5.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (42-41) @ Lakewood (35-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (2.89 ERA, 10:89 BB/SO, 74.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (10-10) vs Tri-City (9-11) 7:05 PM 7/8 (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (6-7) vs Elizabethton (5-7) 6:00 PM DH (season preview)

GCL: Pirates (3-7) vs Yankees West (4-6) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (9-19) vs Indians (15-12) 10:30 AM (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

Here is Josh Bell’s 13th homer, tying his career-high.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

7/7: Juan Paula promoted to Morgantown.

7/7: Tyler Glasnow recalled. Kyle Lobstein optioned to Indianapolis.

7/6: Steven Brault optioned to Indianapolis. Kyle Lobstein promoted to Pirates.

7/6: Jacob Stallings sent outright to Indianapolis.

7/6: Pirates released Clario Perez.

7/5: Gerrit Cole assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/5: Steven Brault promoted to Pirates. Jacob Stallings designated for assignment.

7/5: Austin Meadows placed on disabled list.

7/5: Tomas Morales promoted to Indianapolis (sent back to Altoona on 7/6)

7/4: Jameson Taillon placed on 15-day disabled list.

7/4: Jin-De Jhang promoted to Indianapolis. Tomas Morales assigned to Altoona.

7/4: Erik Lunde activated from disabled list. Assigned to Bradenton. Raul Hernandez assigned to GCL.

7/4: Elias Diaz assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

7/4: Chris Stewart placed on disabled list.

7/4: Pirates claim Eric Fryer off waivers. Rob Scahill placed on waivers.

7/3: Pirates sign Chris McDonald and Evan Piechota. Both assigned to GCL.

7/3: Pirates sign six international free agents.

7/3: Yunior Montero promoted to West Virginia.

7/3: Curtis Partch sent outright to Indianapolis.

7/2: Pablo Reyes activated from temporary inactive list. Trace Tam Sing placed on temporary inactive list.

7/1: Julio Vivas promoted to West Virginia.

7/1: Rinku Singh assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab

7/1: Pirates sign Andrew Walker. Assigned to GCL.

6/30: Jorge Rondon sent outright to Indianapolis.

6/30: Erik Lunde assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

6/30: Raul Hernandez assigned to Bradenton.

6/30: Jose Regalado placed on disabled list. Tanner Anderson promoted to Bradenton.

6/30: Tomas Morales assigned to Indianapolis. Ed Easley released.

6/30: Jose Osuna promoted to Indianapolis. Jhondaniel Medina assigned to Altoona.

6/29: Pirates sign Nick King and Daniel Cucjen.

6/28: Trevor Williams activated from temporary inactive list.

6/28: Carl Anderson assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

6/28: Pirates sign Max Kranick. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

6/27: Pirates sign Buddy Borden. Assigned to Bradenton.

6/27: Jeff Roy assigned to Bristol.

6/27: Erik Lunde placed on the disabled list.

6/26: Pirates purchase the contract of Chad Kuhl. Kyle Lobstein optioned to Indianapolis.

6/26: Pirates designate Curtis Partch for assignment.

6/26: Pirates unconditionally release Cory Luebke.

6/26: Trevor Williams placed on bereavement list.

6/26: Tomas Morales sent to Bradenton.

6/25: Justin Maffei assigned to Altoona.

6/25: Luis Paula and David Whitehead assigned to Bristol on rehab.

6/24: Pirates purchase the contract of Adam Frazier. Designate Cole Figueroa for assignment.

6/24: Juan Nicasio activated from restricted list. Designate Jorge Rondon for assignment.

6/24: Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and combined, they played less than 30 games with the Pirates. Starting with the most recent player first, we have Jerry Dybzinski, shortstop for the 1985 Pirates. Before him was Chuck Goggin, who was dealt to the Pirates for Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning. Goggin was a utility fielder for the 1972-73 Pirates.

Next up are Red Nonnenkamp and Art Merewether, who share something in common besides a birthday and playing for the Pirates. Both of them played exactly one game for the Pirates and it came as a pinch-hitter. Nonnenkamp struck out in his only at-bat on September 6,1933 and Merewether grounded out to Hall of Fame shortstop Dave Bancroft in his only at-bat. Unlike Nonnenkamp, Merewether never played another Major League game.

Finally we have Hall of Fame second baseman Billy Herman, who was a player-manager during the 1947 season. He didn’t write his name into the lineup often, starting just 13 times. He led the Pirates to a 61-92 record before stepping down prior to the last game of the season. Herman went into the HOF in 1975, part of the same class with his teammate in 1947, Ralph Kiner.

  • IF the Keller that we get in the future is the overall numbers the kid is putting up now you’re looking at a #2 starter…a top of the rotation arm with great control numbers. I think we would take that all day.

  • That TBD guy might get to pitch again. WOOOHOOO!!!! 🙂 Happy Thursday everyone. Or my Friday.

  • Does Singh bring the Pirates fans from India? I cannot really think of another reason he is taking up a roster spot

    • Actually when healthy even without having impressive stuff he has had good results. When he was injured he didn’t count on the Roster. I would say they want to see if he can get back to where he was in 2012 at West Virginia. 18BB 65SO over 72 innings.

    • John Dreker
      July 7, 2016 10:36 am

      When a player gets injured, teams are responsible for getting them healthy. He’s in the GCL now as a rehab player and was on the DL before, so he hasn’t taken up a roster spot all season

    • I’m thinking the pirates are , at minimum, taking notes on his rehab and procedures to Atleast have the documentation on recovery and the such.

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