The Pirates Prospects 2015 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2015 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks. Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
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
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.