The Pirates Prospects 2017 Prospect Guide is now available for pre-sales. The book will be released the week before Spring Training, and we are currently in the process of making the final changes with editing and formatting.

The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2017 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. Subscribers to the site get discounted books, with Top Prospect subscribers getting $10 off, and Annual subscribers getting $5 off. The eBook will be released when the book is released, and will also come with discounts. Details on the promotions can be found on the products page, and you can subscribe to the site or upgrade your current plan on the subscriptions page.

While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks as a countdown to the start of Spring Training, and to give a preview of the release of the book. We will be wrapping up on Monday, February 13th. The reports will only be available to site subscribers, including those with a monthly plan. You can subscribe here, and if you like these reports, be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site to get much more analysis on every player in the system.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Alen Hanson, 2B

19. Luis Escobar, RHP

18. Edgar Santana, RHP

17. Elias Diaz, C

16. Max Kranick, RHP

15. Trevor Williams, RHP

14. Braeden Ogle, LHP

13. Clay Holmes, RHP

12. Steven Brault, LHP

11. Nick Kingham, RHP

10. Gage Hinsz, RHP

9. Taylor Hearn, LHP

8. Will Craig, 3B

7. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B

6. Cole Tucker, SS

5. Kevin Newman, SS

4. Josh Bell, 1B

3. Tyler Glasnow, RHP

We continue the countdown with the number 2 prospect, Mitch Keller.

2. MITCH KELLER, RHP

Keller is one of the Pirates’ biggest breakouts in recent years. He came into pro ball with a fastball that could hit 94-95 MPH and the makings of a good curveball, but poor command. He took some huge steps in 2016 with his velocity, secondary stuff, and command.

The biggest change for Keller was a small mechanical adjustment that led to his control doing a 180. He previously let his glove arm dip below his waist, but focused on keeping the arm up and strong. This led to a cleaner delivery, and the ability to command his fastball all over the zone, along with better command of the secondary stuff.

Keller also saw an increase in his velocity, getting to the point where he was sitting 94-97 MPH and touching 99. That, plus the new command, made him dominant. He spent most of his year in West Virginia using the fastball almost exclusively the first four innings, and had plenty of success with that approach. He eventually had to throw the secondary stuff, not because he needed it to get outs, but because he needed to work on the pitches. This approach carried over to Bradenton at the end of the year, with Keller looking advanced for the lower levels.

The curveball has sharp tilt and is a plus offering when it is consistent. He didn’t always have that consistency in 2016, but that could have been due to the fastball-heavy approach. He has a feel for a changeup, and saw improvements with a new grip, but that pitch still lags behind the other two. He should see improvements with both pitches as he moves up and gets forced to use his off-speed stuff earlier. This happened a bit more in Bradenton, and will really increase in Double-A.

Keller has top of the rotation stuff, and is a relatively safe pitching prospect for the lower levels. He would have otherwise been eligible for the 2017 draft, and would have been a contender for the top of the first round. He’s more advanced for A-ball than Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow were at the same age. He should move quickly through the system, possibly making his debut in 2018.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. A little off topic, but will we ever see the Pirates mentioned in one of these type of articles…..

    “Cuban left-hander Osvaldo Hernandez has been declared a free agent and can now sign with any team, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (via Twitter). Several teams are already interested in the 18-year-old southpaw, including the Astros, Braves, Mets, Padres, Rangers, Reds and Red Sox.”

    Better yet, do the Pirates ever have plans on ever trying to sign a top notch Cuban baseball prospect?

    • Maybe now that the bonus pools are limited to around $5M. They could pay a top talent $3-4M and still have some money left to spend on other talent.

    • Not with BN owning the team.

      The owner has been in hibernation since September and only has been seen on some milk cartons in the Pittsburgh suburbs, circulated by worried daughters concerned over their dowries.

  2. Hate to get too excited about a prospect who only has a few starts above low A ball, but wow does this kid scream future ace or what?!!!

    Hope he keeps his head down and dedicates himself to his craft even more than he has to get to this lofty place.

  3. Not a huge fan of hypotheticals- but here is one for Tim and John and anyone else who wants to chime in…

    It is opening day 2017 and the flu has struck down the entire Pirate MLB starting pitching crew…
    Two pitchers are unaffected…
    1. Glasnow
    2. Keller
    You have to pick one to start – who would you go with based on what you know today?

    And of course why?

    • Glasnow, because he’s faced upper level and major league bats already. Taking a guy from A ball to the bigs is a big risk.

    • TG is obvious answer due to experience, but I can see your reason for asking due to Keller’s stuff and superior control.

      I doubt either one would fare well going against Red Sox lineup, while facing off against Sale or Price or Porcello, but I think TG would have best chance to succeed.

    • The way your hypothetical question is phrased “what you know today” makes me think you aren’t asking for the obvious choice of whoever is lights out against major league bats in spring training games.
      Based upon that assumption I pick Glasnow.
      Why? First, he has major league experience. Second, his peers and his coaches are telling everybody its time for him to develop and prove himself at the major league level.
      Finally, Keller hasn’t even pitched a AA game and jumping 3 levels to become the opening day starter is something of a fantasy script…..even if he looks great this spring and continues to exhibit great control.

        • In most farm systems, he still would be first. MLB Pipeline would have him first in 22 of the 30 teams, BA would have him first in 13. Glasnow’s spot says more about the strength of the Pirates, rather than the fall of him.

          • Yeh, but I think PP’s adjusted expectation for TG from top of the rotation all-star to a “strong #3” starter after one not-so-great year, says something as well. Were the hopes too high before? I recognize the difference between ceiling and likely outcome, but it seemed like his upside was also a likely outcome up until this year.

            • He still has the same upside, he’s just a little less likely to reach it. The problem is that he really didn’t make any progress this year, except in holding runners on, and then that completely disappeared when he reached the majors. Despite what others say, his changeup barely showed progress and it was only at times, not consistently. His fastball control was better in 2015 and his curve was more consistent in the past.

              It’s hard to really convey the idea that someone could put up his stats last year and never really look dominant for more than 1-2 batters per start. I only missed a few minor league innings from him last year, and tracked every pitch I saw. There were times with Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Frank Duncan and Steven Brault where they just dominated for innings at a time, getting quick outs on soft contact and three-pitch strikeouts.

              Even when Glasnow would strikeout three batters in an inning, you wouldn’t get the dominating sense because he’d walk someone in the middle and throw 20+ pitches to four batters, laboring through the inning. His stuff is so good, that batters couldn’t hit it, but usually his control was so bad that he wasn’t even throwing 50% of his pitches in the zone, but AAA hitters would get themselves out by being impatient. That won’t work as well in the majors.

              When you see someone take an overall slight step back like he did in AAA, then that top of the rotation upside we always said, also has to be adjusted slightly to be more realistic. It’s technically still top of the rotation upside, but a strong #3 becomes more likely. Being somewhere between a strong #3 and an ace is still a great prospect. Things just didn’t go as planned in 2016, which is why he’s still a prospect and not penciled into the Pirates Opening Day rotation.

  4. So excited about our top 11! And yes, I did that just to keep Kingham in the mix – I still believe he can be a poor man’s Cole.

  5. The biggest change for Keller was a small mechanical adjustment that led to his control doing a 180.

    If only we could fix Glasnow’s command so “easily”.

    • He got a jump start on High-A with those three starts, so if all goes well, then he should split this season between Bradenton and Altoona, followed by 2018 starting at Indianapolis. That would lead into him being promoted June 2018 at the earliest, or whenever he is ready after that. That’s where the “possibly” making his MLB debut comes from, but he still has to succeed at each level before possibly turns into definitely.

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