ALTOONA, Pa. –  Pirates Prospects has learned that Mitch Keller has been promoted to Double-A Altoona. According to multiple sources, he will be joining the team tomorrow, although he just made his last start on Monday, so he won’t be activated until his turn in the rotation comes up.

In 15 starts for Bradenton this season, Keller pitched to a 3.14 ERA in 77.1 IP. After a tough return from his June back injury, Keller has been pitching great recently. In his last three starts combined, he has allowed three runs over 19 innings, and he hasn’t walked a batter in either of his last two starts. Keller recently hit 100 MPH in a start and has been hitting 99 MPH often in each of his last three outings. He is the top ranked prospect in the system.

UPDATE 12:34 AM:

The organization has not confirmed the promotion; however, Curve manager Michael Ryan gave his thoughts on Keller.

“I saw him for two starts last year, and it’s electric stuff,” Ryan said. “He’s got three quality pitches, his breaking ball is really good, and he throws hard. He’s a bulldog out there. It’s everything you ask for from a starting pitcher.”

I wouldn’t expect official word from the Pirates until closer to when he would make a start for Altoona, which wouldn’t be until this weekend at the earliest. He made his last start for Bradenton on Monday, allowing one earned run and walking none in six innings.

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32 COMMENTS

    • I can’t say I don’t agree. The Pens were floundering with good talent and they decided to fire a good GM and a good coach. 3 years later they are back-to-back champs. Sometimes you just need to change course.

    • This might surprise you, but if not right now, the time may be coming. Much too much hesitation to do anything earlier this season, when the flaws were easy to see.

    • I think that the rookies that have been playing often really were the big reason that we were streaking after the all star break. Marte came back and he dropped a hot Fraizer out of the lead off spot and we started losing again. The young players had 3 walk off hits in that home stand. That can’t be ignored. Hurdle doesn’t get it. He continuously plays veterans that are not producing and lets the rookies cool off and then struggles.

  1. So, Pittsburgh should realistically expect to see him in the middle of 2019, which is just about the time Pittsburgh should be saying goodbye to Gerrit Cole.

  2. Well yet another loss to the Reds, one of the very worst teams in MLB, that makes them 1 – 8. Flip that and they are closer to contending, or even 4- 5. It is beyond obvious that this team is again the definition of boring and mediocre. They should have either sought to improve or sold everything not nailed down, what is going to change here that will make 2018 any different?

    • It’s not going to be easy. I think it’ll take 5 things to happen without anything else going drastically wrong:

      1. Glasnow emerges as a legitimate mid-rotation arm or better. There’s enough true talent in a rotation of Cole-Taillon-Glasnow-Nova-Williams to get you to the WC game, assuming a league-average offense and pen.

      2. NH overhauls the bullpen (and it works this time). Re-sign Nicasio and sign a Neshek type to solidify the 7th-8th-9th innings. Convert Kuhl to the pen. Let Kingham pitch in long relief. Try to unload Hudson and his salary and hand the last two spots to some combination of Mariñez, Schugel, Neverauskus, Santana.

      3. Bell and Polanco take a half step forward. If you can get 3 WAR from each of them and that’s all they ever produce, I’ll take it.

      4. Trade for a starting 2B or 3B. Kang may never return and there’s no immediate help coming from Indianapolis. I would ask the Tigers about Ian Kinsler, who has excellent plate discipline, good defense, and should be hitting better given his peripherals. The Tigers do need to get younger, maybe they would let him go for a prospect ranked in our teens.

      5. NH breaks character and for once DOESN’T punt the first 2 months of the season waiting for the cavalry to come: he signs a 4th OF who is, you know, an outfielder. Austin Jackson, Daniel Nava, Gregor Blanco, Ryan Raburn. When Meadows is ready, he can figure out what to do then.

      This team will cost ~$110M, assuming arbitration for Cole, Mercer and Rivero:
      Cervelli, Bell, Kinsler, Harrison, Mercer, Marte, Mccutchen, Polanco
      Freese, Frazier, Jackson/Nava, Moroff, Diaz
      Cole, Taillon, Nova, Glasnow, Williams
      Rivero, Nicasio, Neshek, Kuhl, Santana, Schugel, Kingham

      Brault, Holmes and Waddell are pitching depth. Cross your fingers that Newman and Meadows are ready to contribute on or around June 1.

      • Good post. My feelings are they should stick it out for 2018 with the foundation they have. Properly supplement and the playoffs seem possible enough.

      • Kinsler will be 36 next year and has declined this year. He’s lost a lot of power and average. He is still solid at 2B. His 2018 option is only $10MM which isn’t bad but I can’t help but feel like the Bucs can get similar production for a whole lot cheaper.

        Also, I wouldn’t necessarily say the GMNH punts the first 2 months of the season. He may wait on prospects especially with the pitching staff but even the Pirates established players are notoriously slow starters (I’m looking at you Cutch).

        If Kang stays out of trouble and plays all year, Marte doesn’t get suspended, and Taillon doesn’t get cancer, I think we’re looking at a 60 win team right now.

        • Re: Kinsler, the performance decline is fueled by a .259 BABIP despite the hardest contact and lowest pull rate and lowest ground ball rate of his career. His ISO is in the same range it was from ’13 – ’15. He SHOULD be getting better results – about 25 points of average and 35-40 points of slugging. Even as is he’s a 3 win player, and his peripherals are that of a 4-win player. I don’t think you get that for cheaper than $10M, and if you could the acquisition cost would be a much better prospect.

          I do think NH has “punted” the first 2 months the last two seasons in anticipation of prospect reinforcements. The back half of the rotation in ’16 coming out of the gate was decidedly weak because he was expecting Taillon and one or more of Glasnow, Kuhl and Brault to take over for Locke and Vogelsong. And I think he did the same thing with respect to the OF this season, preparing for Meadows’ arrival. By “punting” I simply mean he prioritized other needs, which unfortunately also did not work out (bullpen). So it looks even worse in retrospect.

      • Thats looks pretty good to me Stephen. I am not so sure about Kinsler at this stage of his career, but they could do worse.

    • Well, when the team has clearly stopped playing for the manager/is pissed off at the front office and/or the manager has lost the team for 80% of the season, the necessary changes seem obvious, but hey, who knows…

  3. Stewart 0-3 again tonight – now in 8th inning – does NH want to give his team the best chance of winning?

    • They have not decided on his schedule yet. Saturday would be five days rest, but if he was planning for his next start with Bradenton, then Sunday would be the day. When you throw in an off-day for travel, then that can sometimes push back his schedule. So basically,Saturday seems the least likely of the three options.Sunday right now seems most likely, while Tuesday back in Altoona is also a possibility. That Tuesday start would give him two starts at home during a six-game homestand.

    • Don’t think so, can’t see him beginning the year in Triple-A just because he got a month at Altoona. Later in the year would be more likely if all goes well, like August/Sept.

  4. Whoa. Didn’t see that coming. Is this a typical timeline for top prospect promotion? I seem to remember JT, Cole, Glasnow spending a whole yr at hi A but i could be mistaken.

    • Cole split the year I think but Glasnow and Taillon either were promoted for a playoff push or just a couple games.

    • Taillon made three starts in Altoona during the year he started with Bradenton. Cole spent half of a year. Glasnow spent the whole season, but he had a lot to work on compared to Keller and Glasnow got a late start to his season that year due to a Spring Training back injury.

      Honestly, we expected this promotion around mid-June, maybe start of July. He missed a month and had a couple tough outings after he came back, so that’s why he is arriving now. Basically the same time frame as Taillon, just 2-3 more starts.

      Taillon was assigned to Altoona on August 17th. Keller won’t be too far ahead of that by the time he’s officially added to the roster

      • Ah gotcha, thanks for clarifying. I guess cole was a different animal coming out of a major college anyway…i think just him being injured made it feel like he hasn’t spent much time in high A

        • Yes, less than five weeks left to this season, so he will begin next year in Altoona. This move really doesn’t do much, just gives him a taste of the league, maybe 1-2 playoff games too

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