Mitch Keller was named the Opening Day starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the excitement continues to grow watching his game develop further.
After revolutionizing his game by adding a sinker, Keller is looking to take yet another step forward after establishing himself as a legitimate Major League starter.
Part of the work this season has been incorporating a cutter more, and he put that on full display in his latest outing against the Minnesota Twins.
According to Baseball Savant, he threw the pitch 32 times, picking up six whiffs on 14 swings (43% whiff rate), while also picked up five called strikes.
Better yet, he is getting the exact kind of results you have come to expect out of the cutter, weak contact because the hitter couldn’t square up to the pitch.
Keller isn't just getting some whiffs with his cutter, but he's shattering some bats, too. pic.twitter.com/pEkEgkqB3t
— Justice delos Santos (@justdelossantos) March 18, 2023
The Twins were able to put five of Keller’s cutters into play, and although one of them had an exit velocity of 104.6, they only averaged 80.7 mph off the bat.
There was a lot of weak contact, which is exactly what you want to see.
Although he did have a couple of misses, allowing a home run and hitting two batters, if the Pirates get this kind of Keller more times than not, they are going to be in a good position every fifth day.
— Canaan Smith-Njigba didn’t necessarily add to his insane exit velocity numbers on Saturday, but continues to make as strong a case to break camp with the Major League team as he can, picking up a double.
It still seems like a trip to Indianapolis is likely, but what Smith-Njigba has done in spring by creating some heavy competition is exactly what the Pirates were hoping would happen.
Pirates Prospects Daily
By John Dreker
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**Pirates Prospects Daily: Canaan Smith-Njigba Continues To Hit The Ball Hard
**Pirates DVR: Home Runs For Ji-Man Choi, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Mason Martin
Song of the Day
No TV, afternoon game on the road against the Baltimore Orioles. Lots of regulars playing.
📻 https://t.co/gff1SXHPSA#LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/84Zs7kdokk
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) March 19, 2023
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.
Would rather see Oviedo than Velasquez and although I like Suwinski, Swaggerty and CSN over Suwinsky. If they fail to produce, then try someone else. Many a player has failed in their first MLB starting attempt. It is the ones that overcome and learn from failure (and the appropriate accountability from failure) that can succeed in the long run.
So . . . Velasquez has to take one for the team in spring training?
Good that we learn now what probably many other teams already knew. If he makes the active roster it will be as a long relief option at best.
He and Oviedo were the pair vying for 5th SP. We might have wanted to look at the XWOBA numbers from 2022. Oviedo .278, VV .332.
If the Pirates are shooting for another first pick in the draft, I have to believe Vasquez is in mid-season form and should make as many starts as his health allows. But if they’re actually serious about winning, the poor guy has no business in a starting rotation.
Oh, well. How could BC have known he actually IS Vince Velasquez?
They’re not going anywhere, anyway so give him 30 starts and let the tank begin. But I’m afraid Keller and, no doubt, a couple other young arms will make Velasquez’ spot in the rotation look even worse. I say they give him two months so Nickles feels like he got his money’s worth before he goes to the pen and pitches just well enough to lose the Pirates at least a few more games.
Vazquez was a very strange signing, I agree with you for once. Oviedo and Ortiz are justifiably AAA bound in a vacuum but Vince Velazquez isn’t a vacuum, even though he “sucks”.
They needed two starters, and Hill is fine, but they should have done better than this.
After keeping the strike out/swing and miss down through out ST, Cruz has k 3 times in his last 6 at bats…..
These roster decisions are made in December / January and will not change. They ran the numbers in the computer and the computer is gospel. So look for the outfield of cutch, suwinski, Reynolds, Joe and some platoon utility guy.
Sadly you’re probably correct.
If CSN and Swaggerty both start on Indy, then the “competition” bit was just that. A bit. Which is fine, I don’t want decisions being made on spring training stays alone.
Speaking of our Opening Day pitcher….here are my hopeful Opening Day position players.
This is also our best DEFENSIVE lineup.If Swags can hit .250, he will, like Hayes be an asset mainly because of defense.
Too much swing and miss at the bottom of this lineup for my taste. Give me CSN instead of Jack. And Lord knows Endy would sure be several steps up from Hedges.
You see too much swing and miss only at the bottom of the lineup?
Too much swing and miss is ‘business as usual’ in our farm system.
He can hit .230 if he slugs like he has been this spring.
The zero walks by Keller was impressive even though late last season and this spring traffic continues to be less of a problem for Mitch you hate to see guys give free passes.
Maybe Keller is the player we should be focused on extending.
This edition of Mitch Keller we are seeing is a portrait of a kid who has found himself and is pitching with confidence. That’s on him, his pitching coaches, and the Catchers to whom he is throwing.
Remember the Mitch Keller who could not get past the 4th inning because he was already over 100 pitches thrown? Something went off in his head around the AS Break and he finished the year as follows:
His last 7 Starts in 2022:
8/30 6 IP, 105 pitches/71 strikes
9/06 6 IP, 100 pitches/65 strikes
9/11 7 IP, 91 pitches/57 strikes
9/16 6 IP, 84 pitches/57 strikes
9/22 6 IP, 96 pitches/61 strikes
9/27 5 IP, 97 pitches/57 strikes
10/03 5 IP, 93 pitches/60 strikes
Yesterday he threw 4.2 IP with 77 pitches/46 strikes. His previous start he threw 4 IP with 61 pitches/40 strikes. The start prior to that he threw 3 IP with 40 pitches/28 strikes.
He is throwing strikes, he is challenging, and he is locating much better than was the case early in 2022. I think his confidence in the defense behind him is also a part of it.
Depends on the cost, of course.
I’m not going to be upset if CSN is sent to Indy to start season, but I will be happy if he’s rewarded for coming to camp prepared to win a job. At some point in time this organization is going to realize it’s beneficial for all interested parties if actions and consequences match up, right?
In that case TSwag DESERVES to start!
I agree. He does. But not just because of spring. He had a 102 WRC+ at insay last season. That translates at CF. A 90 WRC+ and plus defense would be a win. Even for a first rounder.
And that includes his terrible start to the season right? Didn’t he OPS over .800 the last 4 months or something
Good with me.