Pirates Top Prospect Readies For The Show

Pitcher Mitch Keller Figures To Arrive In The Majors In 2019

Eric Hagman
February 16, 2019 - 6:57 am

Eric Hagman 93.7 The Fan

Bradenton, FL (93.7 The Fan) - Someone likely to be among the early cuts from the Pirates major league camp is a potential future staff ace. 

22-year-old right-hander Mitch Keller is the latest in the line of top pitching prospects drafted by the Pirates in recent years, following in the footsteps of Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon.  Keller is rated the Pirates top prospect and one of the top 30 overall, according to most outlets.  He is ticketed to begin the season in Indianapolis with a chance to join the Pirates perhaps by mid-season. 

“I just have to look at it that any time I could go up,” Keller said.  ‘I’m not looking at a timeline or anything like that.  I’m just trying to do what I can do and be ready for when that time is.  My goal is to be up there and do well.”

Keller was a second round draft pick in 2014 and made his professional debut that year as an 18 year old.

“I’ve had a few bumps in the road, injuries and all that stuff,” Keller said.  “When I first got signed I didn’t really have a plan for how it was going to go, but (I’m) just keeping the course and keeping the dream going.”

Last season, after going 9-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 14 starts for double-a Altoona, he was promoted to triple-a Indianapolis, where he started ten games and went 3-2 with a 4.82 ERA.

“It was different,” Keller said.  “Guys are more experienced and know what they’re kind of doing up there. It was a good learning experience for me and I’m ready to go this year.”

While the comparisons to Taillon and Cole are obvious, manager Clint Hurdle is reluctant to do so.

“I haven’t seen enough of Mitch to even go there right now,” Hurdle said.  “I’d rather just wait until I get a better look at him this spring. All the reports I’ve gotten he’s cut from a similar cloth in the area of having a very good awareness of the pitching game.  He’s got a slow heartbeat out there.  Those are things I’ve heard.  Those are the things that have been shared with me from managers who have had him, from scouts, even other organizations that have watched him pitch.  I’m really looking forward to that opportunity to put eyes on him for the first time.”

Mangement already eyed Keller's spot in the clubhouse at Pirate City.  His locker is in the same area as those of starters Taillon, Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams.

“I try to talk to them as much as I can and pick their brain,” Keller said.  “Any little thing that I can get out of them or anything they want to share, they’ve all been really cool guys.  They’ve reached out to me even without me having to initiate a conversation, which is really cool. I don’t think you’d see that at many places.”

And, as is the case with most highly-drafted players in recent years, fans have followed Keller’s progression through the minors.

“It’s cool, it’s really awesome,” Keller said.  “Going to PiratesFest and seeing all the people I had never met before and already knew who I was, it's really cool to see everyone that’s behind you and wants to see you make it.”