Morning Report: First Start of the Season For Mitch Keller

The start by Tyler Glasnow yesterday was a big deal, but in the grand scheme of things, it was just another start for the top prospect in the Pirates’ system. He is on a fairly set plan at this point and as long as he stays healthy and doesn’t lose the strike zone, then we will see him in Pittsburgh in June. His timetable didn’t advance with his AAA debut happening now instead of Opening Day next year, but it’s good to get his as much AAA time as possible before he makes his Major League debut. He also didn’t have a setback on Saturday night because he allowed a career-high nine hits.

Glasnow legitimately has stuff to work on still, such as improving his change-up, his command and his ability to hold runners on. He had a little trouble with the latter on Saturday. At least with the change and command, he has shown improvements over last year and even since the first month of the season. So while I am downplaying the importance of Glasnow’s first AAA outing, it was still something worth getting excited over because he is now one step closer to the majors, even if time-wise, he didn’t get any closer.

That leads me to what I consider a more important start in the system today. Mitch Keller will make his season debut for Bristol. He was the second round pick of the Pirates last year, who signed for $1,000,000 bonus. Keller pitched in the GCL after signing and immediately flashed signs of why he was so highly thought of, posting a 1.98 ERA in 27.1 innings, with 29 strikeouts and a 1.58 GO/AO ratio. He also sits mid-90’s with his fastball and he’s 19 years old, plus he’s got a big frame, with room to add muscle.

Keller was scheduled to begin the season in the Bristol rotation, but he experienced mild forearm tightness during his last start in Extended Spring Training. Many people were looking forward to seeing Keller, Trey Supak and Gage Hinsz perform this year in Bristol, because the three young right-handers all have tremendous upside, but all three have had minor injuries to deal with this season. Hinsz barely started before Supak went down with his injury, so there has only been a very brief span where two of the three were healthy since Bristol’s season started.

Supak had a shoulder issues that briefly shut him down in Spring Training and then again after his start on July 11th. He should be back in about ten days if all goes well. Hinsz had shoulder soreness as well right before the season started, which gave him a late start. He now seems to be fully on track, as Tim Williams had a live report of his July 30th start, which was the best of his young career.

So while Supak and Hinsz have been getting some innings for Bristol, Keller has been on the sideline waiting.  They all pitched during Extended ST, so the innings on paper for this season will look low, but there is a lot that you won’t see, especially with all three going to the Fall Instructional League after the season for more innings.

Tonight is Keller’s night though, the debut of the top prospect in the group. We had him ranked as the eighth best prospect in the system in our book. He is currently #13, but he didn’t do anything to drop, in fact he looked impressive in Extended ST. He was passed by two draft picks and three players that have performed well, but that’s a sign of the top of the system being strong, as his upside has remained the same. That’s another reason why we prefer tiered rankings over numbers.

Keller threw two simulated innings earlier this week and was cleared for today’s game, which if all goes well with his pitch count, will be a three inning outing. The overall results won’t mean much, but getting him back on the mound in a real game is important for his progress. So while I won’t put much stock in the pitching line from the game, just the fact he is out there makes this a big start for one of the top starters in the system.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by 5.5 games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a three game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 5-5 in their last ten games. They have a two game lead in the division.

Altoona is 4-6 in their last ten games and they are in second place, four games back of Bowie.

Bradenton is 7-3 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by one game in the standings.

West Virginia is 7-3 in their last ten games and they have a five game lead in the division.

Morgantown is 7-3 in their last ten games. They trail by four games in the division.

GCL Pirates are 7-3 in their last ten games. They are tied for first place, though their winning percentage is nine points higher than the other team.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 4-3 on Saturday night to the Reds. They now send Charlie Morton to the mound, trying to salvage a split in the series. He has not faced Cincinnati yet this season. The Reds will give the ball to Keyvius Sampson, who made his Major League debut in relief on Thursday against the Pirates, throwing a scoreless inning.

In the minors, Angel Sanchez goes today, making his ninth start for Indianapolis. In July, he had a 2.18 ERA in 33 innings. Between Indianapolis and Altoona, he has a 2.74 ERA in 128.1 innings. Steven Brault will make his ninth starts for Altoona. He had 45 strikeouts in 65.2 innings at Bradenton and now had 46 in 41.2 innings with Altoona. Bradenton was rained out yesterday. They will play a doubleheader today. Cody Dickson will start one of the games, while no starter has been named yet for the other. The GCL and DSL are off today. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (60-43) @ Reds (47-55) 1:10 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (4.61 ERA, 24:41 BB/SO, 70.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (61-46) vs Charlotte (59-49) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter:  Angel Sanchez (2.65 ERA, 10:39 BB/SO, 51.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (57-50) vs Akron (55-52) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (3.24 ERA, 8:46 BB/SO, 41.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (54-50, 22-12 second half) @ Tampa (50-55) 11:00 AM DH (season preview)
Probable starter:  Cody Dickson (4.01 ERA, 39:74 BB/SO, 103.1 IP) and TBD

Low-A: West Virginia (62-42, 25-10 second half) vs Lakewood (52-51) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (4.96 ERA, 24:70 BB/SO, 78.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (22-19) @ Connecticut (18-21) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

Rookie: Bristol (16-20) vs Danville (18-19) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Mitch Keller (NR)

GCL: Pirates (20-11) vs Tigers (17-13) 12:00 PM 8/3 (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (21-33) vs Yankees2 (30-24) 10:30 AM 8/3 (season preview)


Here are two videos. First is a home run from Jose Osuna..

…followed by the first AA hit from Erich Weiss

Recent Transactions

8/2: Shane Kemp sent from Bristol to GCL.

8/1: J.A. Happ added to active roster. Bobby LaFromboise sent to Indianapolis.

8/1: Josh Bell and Jeremy Bleich promoted to Indianapolis.

8/1: John Holdzkom placed on disabled list. Hunter Morris sent to Altoona.

7/31: Pirates trade Adrian Sampson to Mariners for J.A. Happ.

7/31: Pirates trade Jose Tabata to Dodgers for Michael Morse and cash.

7/31: A.J. Burnett placed on disabled list. Bobby LaFromboise recalled from Indianapolis.

7/31: Deolis Guerra designated for assignment.

7/31: Dan Gamache promoted to Indianapolis. Erich Weiss promoted to Altoona. Trace Tam Sing promoted to Bradenton.

7/30: Pirates trade JaCoby Jones to Detroit Tigers for Joakim Soria

7/30: Vance Worley designated for assignment.

7/30: Justin Seller traded to Chicago White Sox for a player to be named later, or cash.

7/30: Pirates sent Gorkys Hernandez outright to Indianapolis

7/30: Logan Ratledge promoted to Morgantown. Erik Forgione promoted to West Virginia

7/30: Pirates acquire Joe Blanton for cash considerations.

7/29: Pirates trade Jayson Aquino to Indians for cash considerations.

7/28: Gift Ngoepe placed on disabled list.

7/28: Pirates release Ulises Montilla.

7/28: Brent Morel refuses outright assignment to Indianapolis.

7/28: Miguel Ferreras retires. Mervin Del Rosario promoted to Bristol.

7/27: JaCoby Jones promoted to Altoona. Josh Smith placed on disabled list.

7/27: Steve Lombardozzi sent outright to Indianapolis. Andy Vasquez placed on disabled list.

7/27: Jordan Steranka activated from Bradenton disabled list. Isaac Sanchez placed on disabled list.

7/27: Junior Sosa added to Bradenton roster.

7/27: John Holdzkom activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/26: Jonathan Schwind assigned to Bristol on rehab.

7/25: Pirates designate Brent Morel for assignment.

7/25: Justin Sellers sent outright to Indianapolis

7/25: Adam Miller assigned to GCL on rehab

7/24: Robert Stock activated from disabled list.

7/23: Pirates traded Yhonathan Barrios to Milwaukee Brewers for Aramis Ramirez and cash.

7/23: Steve Lombardozzi designated for assignment.

7/23: John Holdzkom assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/23: Hunter Morris activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/23: Wes Freeman released. Andy Otamendi assigned to Bradenton.

7/23: Mervin Del Rosario assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/22: Pirates purchase contract of Pedro Florimon. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis. Jayson Aquino designated for assignment.

7/22: Barrett Barnes promoted to Altoona. Andy Vasquez promoted to Indianapolis.

7/22:  Gorkys Hernandez assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/21: Jonathan Schwind and Andrew Lambo assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/21: Harold Ramirez activated from temporary inactive list. Robert Stock placed on disabled list.

7/20: Jordy Mercer placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Brent Morel. Corey Hart transferred to 60-day DL.

7/20: Tito Polo activated from temporary inactive list. Jeff Roy promoted to Bradenton.

7/20: Kelson Brown activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/19: Junior Lopez assigned to Bradenton. Oderman Rocha assigned to GCL Pirates.

This Date in Pirates History

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a big trade of note. On this date in 1985, the Pittsburgh Pirates sent outfielder George Hendrick, reliever Al Holland and starter John Candelaria to the California Angels for outfielder Mike Brown and pitchers Bob Kipper and Pat Clements. It was a deal involving three veterans and three young players coming back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates lost over 100 games in 1985, but five years later, they had put together a team that would win three straight NL East pennants.

The two players born on this date both played on pennant winners, occurring 89 years apart. Tim Wakefield pitched for the 1992-93 Pirates. He was an eighth round draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1988, but he was a position player back then. He was switched to the mound the next year and didn’t take long to make it to the majors. As a rookie, he went 8-1, 2.15 in 13 starts, then threw two complete game victories in the NLCS. After a very poor 1993 season, he was released and it ended up hurting the Pirates. He would win 186 games for the Red Sox over 17 seasons.

The other player was pitcher Bucky Veil, who got the nickname because he was a star pitcher at Bucknell. He was a rookie on the 1903 Pirates, going 5-3, 3.82 in 70.2 innings. During the first modern day World Series, he pitched the last seven innings of game two, allowing one run. The next year, he pitched just one game for the Pirates, which ended up being his last Major League game.

  • polymorphicvt
    August 2, 2015 11:13 am

    Is it possible Keller starts in West Virginia next year, or will he need more innings in lower levels first?

    • I would say it’s possible, although you might not see him the first few weeks, as they tend to hold younger players back due to colder weather and innings limit. He would just start slower in Spring Training and build up to five innings in Extended ST instead

  • I forgot the pirates released wakefield. Hindsight being 20/20 it was still pretty dumb.

    • I don’t think anyone liked it at the time. He was real bad, but they gave up on him quick. Who knows, it may have saved his career going to Boston because it definitely was getting worse in Pittsburgh. They still should have held on to him at least one more year though