Mitch Keller

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Mitch Thomas Keller

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Mitch Keller was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2nd round of the 2014 amateur draft. He began his pro career that year with the GCL Pirates, with no decisions and a 1.98 ERA in 9 games. He again only saw limited action with the Bristol Pirates of the Appalachian League in 2015 making 6 stars and going 0-3, 5.49.

His career began in earnest in 2016, when he was a combined 9-5, 2.35 in 24 starts mainly for the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League; he also made one start in the Florida State League, with the Bradenton Marauders, and won that game by giving up no runs in 6 innings. He began 2017 with Bradenton, where he was 6-3, 3.14 in 15 starts. He made a couple of rehabilitation starts for the West Virginia Black Bears of the New York-Penn League and finished the season in AA with the Altoona Curve, for a combined record of 8-5, 3.03. He pitched 116 innings and struck out 116 batters.

In 2018, he asserted himself as the Pirates' top pitching prospect by going 9-2, 2.72 in 14 starts for Altoona. He was promoted to the AAA Indianapolis Indians at the end of June, coinciding with his being named to the United States team for the 2018 Futures Game. He had the honor of starting the game on July 15th at Nationals Park and pitched a perfect 1st inning, retiring all three batters he faced from the World team while tickling 100 mph on the radar gun. He then made 10 more starts for the AAA Indianapolis Indians, going 3-2, 4.82 to finish the year at 12-4, 3.48.

Keller started the 2019 season back in Indianapolis and was 5-0, 3.45 after 5 starts when he was called up by the Bucs to make his major league debut in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on May 27th. The Pirates had been hesitant to call him up so early in the year but the staff had been riddled by injuries to Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams as well as ineffective work from spot starters Nick Kingham and Steven Brault. He pitched 4 innings, giving up 6 earned runs on 7 hits, but also striking out 7, and was charged with an 8-1 loss; all six runs came in a rough first before he settled down. After facing 11 batters in the first, he faced 10 over the last 3 innings.

Keller's last starts of 2020 yielded no hits but the latter one produced eight walks. He was the first NL hurler with back-to-back no-hit appearances of five+ innings since Johnny Vander Meer in 1938 and was the first Buc pitcher since Dock Ellis 50 years prior to walk 8 in a no-walk outing. He went 1-1, 2.91 in 5 starts for a Pirates team that posted the fewest wins in the majors that year. In 2021, he made 23 starts for the Bucs, going 5-11, 6.17 in what was a very disappointing season. However, he bounced back significantly in 2022 as he made 29 starts in 31 appearances and pitched 159 innings, finishing at 5-12 in spite of a solid ERA of 3.91 (his ERA+ was 104). He was pitching in front of a poor team that lost over 100 games, and had poor run support to boot, hiding the fact that he was actually a pretty good pitcher. He improved significantly after leaning heavily on a slider following a stint in the bullpen; it looked like Pittsburgh had not given up on him too early (unlike Tyler Glasnow, another hot prospect who had fizzled in the Burgh, but wound up starring elsewhere).

Things were very different at the start of 2023, as not only did Keller continue to improve, but the Pirates as a whole took a huge step forward, posting the best record in the National League in April. After losing seven straight games to start off May, Mitch played the role of stopper on May 8th, throwing his first career complete game and shutout in defeating the Colorado Rockies, 2-0, to stop the skid. He struck out 8 while allowing just 4 hits. At that point, his record stood at 4-1, 2.72, and he led the league in innings pitched with 49 2/3. While the Pirate skid resumed, Keller was about as good in his next start on May 14th with 13 K, no walks and no runs in 7 innings in a 4-0 win against the Baltimore Orioles, the first time a Pirates pitcher posted that line in over 100 years. He made the All-Star team for the first time, but slid after the All-Star break before righting his course again. On September 20th, he earned what was the luckiest win by any pitcher that season, ending up as a 13-7 winner over the Chicago Cubs in spite of allowing 7 runs in 5 2/3 innings. He broke A.J. Burnett's franchise record for most strikeouts by a right-hander in one season, 209, set in 2013, finishing with 210, to go along with a record of 13-9, 4.21 in 32 games.

On February 23, 2024, he signed a five-year contract extension with the Pirates worth a total of $77 million.

His brother Jon Keller played in the minor leagues from 2013-2017.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL All-Star (2023)
  • NL Shutouts Leader (2023)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2023)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Justice delos Santos: "Keller reaches 'big dog' status with first career shutout",, May 8, 2023. [1]
  • Alex Stumpf: "Keller 'super grateful' for contract extension, support from Bucs staff",, February 23, 2024. [2]

Related Sites[edit]