Keller will start for the Royals on Opening Day against the White Sox, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. It's quite the rapid rise for Keller, who was a Rule 5 pick prior to last season. His status as the Royals' top starter shouldn't confuse fantasy owners into thinking he's an ace, though. His 3.08 ERA last season outpaced the ERA estimators by a considerable margin, and he struck out just 16.5 percent of opposing hitters.
Keller will make his Cactus League debut Friday against the Angels, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. After a surprisingly productive season as a Rule 5 pick in 2018, Keller is assured a rotation spot with the Royals heading into the upcoming campaign. The right-hander turned in a stellar 3.28 ERA in his 20 starts, but relied mostly on inducing weak contact rather than whiffing batters (16.8 strikeout percentage). Keller at least showed some notable improvement in making bats miss over the final month of the season, when he posted an 11.6 percent swinging-strike rate. That might give him some nascent sleeper potential heading into 2019.
Keller (9-6) picked up the win Sunday against the Tigers, lasting seven innings and giving up just one run on three hits and three walks while striking out a pair. The start will wind up as his final assignment of the season, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. Keller retired the first nine batters he faced before allowing a short rally to start the fourth inning. A double play cut that rally short after just one run, and he remained out of serious trouble for the remainder of the outing. He'll finish the season with an excellent 3.08 ERA in 140.1 innings, a superb return for a Rule 5 draft pick.
Keller allowed four runs on four hits and one walk while striking out seven over six innings Monday against Pittsburgh. He didn't factor into the decision. Keller gave up a run in the third, a pair in the fourth and one in the seventh prior to exiting with a one-run lead. He tossed 71 of 109 pitches for strikes. The 23-year-old had been on a roll prior to Monday's outing, as he'd surrendered two or fewer runs in his previous six starts (1.85 ERA with 29 punchouts over 39 frames). He'll look to get back on track Saturday in Detroit.
Keller (8-6) allowed one run on four hits in a win over the White Sox on Tuesday, striking out six and walking two in seven innings. Keller allowed just one extra-base hit in Tuesday's contest and all six of his strikeouts were swinging strikeouts. He's now tossed three consecutive quality starts and over his last eight starts Keller is 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA. The young righty has brought his season ERA down to 3.04 and carries a 1.30 WHIP with 87 punchouts in 127.1 innings on the year. If the Royals stick to their current six-man rotation, Keller would be in line to take on the Pirates in Pittsburgh in his next start.