Over the last few years, Mitch Keller has been one of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ most-watched prospects. Two years ago, the former second-round pick made his MLB debut and had mixed results. This past season Keller improved but was limited to five starts. As the Pirates continue their rebuild, Keller will be an important piece for an organization that has struggled to develop pitching over the past few years. While Keller prepares for 2021, he will be looking to prove that he belongs in the rotation for years to come.
In 2019 Keller appeared in 11 games for the Pirates and recorded an ERA of 7.13. In 48 innings of work, the Iowa native allowed 38 earned runs and six home runs. Keller’s finished his first major league stint with a disappointing 1-5 record as the Pirates began their rebuild. Heading into a shortened 2020 season, the Pirates hoped Keller could improve his control and limit the longball.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 20, 2020
Additionally, Keller was able to overcome injuries to finish strong in 2020. While the former top prospect only made five starts, he finished with an ERA of 2.91. Although Keller’s 2020 season was a small sample size, he was in the midst of his best stretch when the season ended. In Keller’s last two starts, he did not allow a hit in 11 innings of work. In that span, the twenty-four-year-old struck out nine batters and held opponents to a .049 average in three September starts.
Furthermore, In Keller’s last two starts, his ERA decreased by two runs. It was a welcoming sign for the Pirates as he was finally living up to his lofty expectations. In a mostly unforgettable season for Pittsburgh, Keller’s last two starts were a highlight. As the Pirates continue to rebuild, they will be looking for Keller to carry that success into 2021.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 26, 2020
If Keller is to continue his success, the Pirates righty will have to improve his control. In three September starts, Keller walked 14 batters, including eight in his final start. Keller was able to find his ways out of trouble, a trait he lacked in his first major league stint. The former top prospect will also have to improve his strikeout rate as he only had more than four strikeouts in one start.
In addition, the Pirates will get a big boost with the return of Jameson Taillon. The Pirates were without their ace for all of 2020, adding pressure on Keller and other Pirate pitchers to fill the void. Despite Keller’s inconsistency, his finish to the season provided hope that he could be a difference-maker for Pittsburgh. In 2021 the former top prospect will be looking to prove that September was no fluke.
Follow Jamie Gatlin On Twitter @JamieGatlin1217
Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images