Glendale, Arizona —— On Monday afternoon at the Arizona Fall League, Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed pitching prospect Mitch Keller threw five scoreless innings for the Glendale Desert Dogs, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out two hitters and working remarkably quickly in shutting down the Scottsdale Scorpions at Camelback Ranch. Throughout the afternoon, Keller pushed the pace and filled the strike zone; he sat 92-95 mph with his fastball, topping out twice at 96 mph, while pairing it with an 84-87 mph changeup and a sharp 81-83 mph curveball.
You can watch some game video of Mitch Keller working at the AFL in that five-inning Monday night start right here, brand new tonight and embedded straight from the Baseball Census YouTube channel:
This marked my first time seeing Mitch Keller pitch, and above anything else I was impressed with his tempo and pacing. This’ll be a very specific comp, but Keller reminded me a ton of San Francisco Giants farmhand Tyler Herb — throw the ball, walk back up the mound, catch the return throw, step on the rubber, throw the ball again. That may not seem like a big deal, but over the course of an inning — or a game — it really puts pressure on hitters to be ready and doesn’t provide them that extra beat to think about situational hitting and sequencing pitch to pitch. In turn, it allows Keller to play off hitters’ urgency while keeping his defense far more involved in the game.
Of course, it takes more than tempo to get good hitters out at the AFL, but luckily the Pittsburgh Pirates prospect has enough of an arsenal to be notable among his peers there, too. Mitch Keller has some very tight, late arm-side run on his fastball with enough feel to back-door it to his glove side on occasion. The run on his fastball isn’t quite as lively as his opponent from Monday afternoon, but Keller has a better handle on how to intentionally manipulate the ball to run, tumble, and sink when he needs some extra life to get off a barrel. Beyond the fastball, his changeup shows good late run, as well, and Keller has enough feel for the pitch to keep it as a legitimate off-speed look. In turn, that’ll help keep him in the rotation with the ability to match up to hitters on both sides with several different looks.
His third look, a curveball, is sharp with late break and consistent depth, and overall decent command even with a few that were overthrown. Keller isn’t afraid to pitch off the curve, and he’ll use it to both righties and lefties. He’s also confident enough to follow up his changeup with the curve, and vice versa rather than working through his fastball; even though it’s only one particularly solid outing, that indicates to me an advanced feel for a full arsenal and enough nuance in sequencing that could give Mitch Keller a viable path to the big leagues as an impact starter. I hope to see him a bit more as the Arizona Fall League continues, but the Pittsburgh Pirates righty really impressed me on Monday afternoon; as you’ll see for yourself in the video above, there’s quite a bit to like from a kid still just 21 years old and succeeding against the best prospects in baseball.
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