Breaking News: Pirates Promote Mitch Keller to Indianapolis

Pirates Prospects has learned that right-handed pitcher Mitch Keller has been promoted to Indianapolis. Keller just tossed eight innings on shutout ball on one hit and and two walks on Monday. He has a 2.72 ERA in 86 innings with Altoona this year, with 76 strikeouts, a .208 BAA a 1.12 WHIP and a 1.54 GO/AO ratio. Keller has given up two runs over his last 26 innings.

Keller, as everyone knows, is the top prospect in the system. He has been so for two years, so his promotion to Indianapolis is big news, though everyone knew it was coming at some point soon. The Pirates held him back this spring, giving a late start so he would be available for October innings. At this point, that seems highly unlikely with the Pirates five games below .500 nearing the halfway point. The doesn’t mean that he couldn’t end up in Pittsburgh this September for some starts, then be ready for 2019 on Opening Day.

That will all be decided after we see how he handles Indianapolis. He should be able to get 12 starts in Triple-A, with more if they are able to make the playoffs, though those starts would cut into possible Major League starts. He was scheduled to start on Saturday with Altoona, so that’s the earliest possibility for his first Indianapolis start.

UPDATE: Sean McCool talked to Mitch Keller after his last start in Altoona. I pulled some quotes from that talk which explain Keller’s improvements and what he learned in Double-A. There will be more from that talk at a later date, but for now, Sean and I thought these quotes from Keller fit better here:

What has been the biggest change and improvement with your off-speed pitches this season? “Trusting my breaking stuff. Throwing it hard and trusting it. Trusting it’s going to do what it’s going to do. Biggest adjustment I made was working on it during sides and during the game throwing it like a fastball. Having that mentality that you’re going to throw it for a strike.”

What have you learned at the Double-A level, and what will you take with you from your time in Altoona? “My takeaways from last year… I feel like when I got here I was fastball heavy and only throwing breaking balls for put-away and not early and middle of counts. That’s where I’ve really grown with the curveball and especially with the changeup. I have so much confidence now throwing behind in the count. That’s been my biggest takeaway.”

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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