Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Prospect Keller Makes Most of Opportunity Pitcher Makes Debut in Grapefruit League

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Prospect Keller Makes Most of Opportunity Pitcher Makes Debut in Grapefruit League

Article excerpt

BRADENTON, Fla. - When Mitch Keller found out he wasn't invited to major league spring training, he was disappointed. Keller, the organization's top pitching prospect, thought he deserved a shot at big-league camp.

"But in this game," Keller said, "you learn real quick you don't really deserve much."

In any case, the Pirates decided that Keller deserved to make his Grapefruit League debut, and Keller took advantage of the opportunity. In Sunday's game against the Boston Red Sox, Keller, 21, pitched two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out three at LECOM Park.

"It's always good to see one of our young men that's having success, that's growing, that's developing well to come out and perform in this arena as well," said manager Clint Hurdle, who had previously seen Keller pitch in instructional league. "There was nothing to be disappointed about today. No walks, three strikeouts, first-pitch strikes, efficient, crisp, downhill angle with the fastball with firm velocity."

Pitching the seventh and eighth innings, Keller threw a fastball in the mid-90s, his changeup and his curveball. He worked quickly, retiring six of the seven batters he faced with a smooth, efficient delivery. At one point, catcher Jacob Stallings visited him on the mound just to give him a breather.

"People have said that I look pretty effortless, but I mean, I'm trying," Keller said with a chuckle. "So I don't know where that comes from. There's a point in warm-ups where I just had to tell myself to settle down a little bit and stuff will take care of itself."

Since the Pirates picked him in the second round of the 2014 draft, Keller has lept up the prospect rankings. Baseball America lists him as the No. 12 best prospect, while MLB Pipeline has him at No. 15.

MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo believes Keller, who is listed at 6 feet 3 and 195 pounds, had the highest floor of any right-handed pitching prospect in 2018.

"Typically highest floor, or who has the highest likelihood of reaching his potential, goes to an advanced college type," Mayo wrote in January. "But Keller's stuff to go along with his outstanding command and size makes him the safest bet to meet expectations. …

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