Mitch Keller’s New Pitch Mix Yields Results

Editor’s Note: Attribution for the Gera Alvarez quote has been added to this story since it was first published.

Righthander Mitch Keller entered phase two of his development as an elite prospect.

The 21-year-old began his ascent last season, when he made a mechanical change to his delivery. Keller held his glove firmly above his belt, which enabled him to better locate his fastball to both sides of the plate.

He recorded a 2.35 ERA in 24 starts, mostly at low Class A West Virginia, while striking out 9.5 and walking 1.3 batters per nine innings. He ascended to the No. 1 prospect ranking in the system.

Keller finished last season with two dominant starts for high Class A Bradenton in the Florida State League playoffs.

Back at Bradenton this season, Keller was learning to effectively mix his curveball and changeup into the mix to complement his fastball, which consistently sits at 94-96 mph and tops out at 98.

“The hitters aren’t sitting on my fastball anymore,” Keller said. “They have doubt in their mind. They don’t know what’s coming. That gears up the fastball, and when I throw the offspeed stuff, they end up chasing a lot.”

A 2014 second-round pick from Xavier High in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Keller overpowered hitters in the South Atlantic League last season with his heater.

However, FSL hitters took advantage of Keller’s fastball-centric approach, especially early in starts.

Keller went 1-1, 4.87 in his first four starts this season. After beginning to mix his pitches earlier in games, he ran off a steak of 18.2 scoreless innings in his next three starts.

“We like Keller’s adjustments,” Bradenton manager Gera Alvarez told “Early on, the beginning of the year, he had a couple of rough outings because he was throwing a lot of fastballs.

“Now when you see him pitch, he’s got good mixed numbers with offspeed. It makes his fastball tougher, and obviously that kind of velocity makes it tough for a hitter.”

— John Perrotto is a writer based in Beaver Falls, Pa.

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