Keller's contract was selected from Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports.
Keller was added to the 40-man roster for Rule 5 protection. He appears to be closing in on a promotion to the big leagues, especially after getting called up to Triple-A at the end of June last year. Keller posted a 4.82 ERA with 57 punchouts over 52.1 frames (10 starts) with Indy and could make his major-league debut in 2019.
Keller was promoted Wednesday from Double-A Altoona to Triple-A Indianapolis, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
After posting a 0.69 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in four June starts, the Pirates will reward their top pitching prospect with a promotion to the highest level of the minors. While this may spark speculation that Keller could eventually reach the majors this season, the Pirates are a pretty conservative organization with such decisions, and there are plenty of other young arms who are close to big-league ready that the team probably wants to evaluate in this rebuilding year. Keller appears primed to make his big-league debut in early 2019. He finishes this season's run at Double-A with a 2.72 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 76:32 K:BB in 86 innings.
Keller tossed eight scoreless innings Monday for Double-A Altoona in its 4-0 win over Harrisburg. He worked around one hit and two walks and struck out six.
It was the longest outing of the season for Keller, who found redemption after ceding nine runs and six walks over 10 innings in his previous two starts against Harrisburg. The 21-year-old's 8.0 K/9 on the campaign doesn't jump off the page, but there's something to be said about his ability to consistently work deep into his starts. He has covered no fewer than six frames in any of his last eight appearances.
Keller threw six shutout innings in his season debut for Double-A Altoona on Sunday. He struck out eight batters while allowing two hits and two walks.
The 22-year-old righty threw 49 of 77 pitches for strikes, mixing in plenty of changeups against a lineup stacked with left-handed batters. Keller is expected to spend the bulk of 2018 in Altoona, with a potential mid-season promotion to Triple-A. There's a chance he could join the Pirates as a September call-up, but it's doubtful the organization promotes him to the majors any sooner.
Keller made his Grapefruit League debut Sunday, throwing two scoreless innings against Boston. He allowed two hits and no walks while striking out three batters, DK Pittsburgh Sports reports.
"There was nothing to be disappointed about today," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Efficient, crisp, downhill angle to the fastball with firm velocity." The righty now features an improving changeup to go along with his fastball and curve. "It's huge," Keller said. "Having that third pitch to keep in the back of hitter's minds is huge. It's been a big progression for me, and it's coming along nicely." Keller will start the 2018 campaign with Double-A Altoona, and while he's got an outside shot of making his major-league debut in September, the Pirates typically promote their prospects more slowly than do other organizations.
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|Minor League Pitching Stats|
|2016||AFX-West Virginia Power||8||5||2.46||23||23||0||0||0||124.1||96||36||34||4||11||18||131|
|2017||ASX-West Virginia Black||0||0||0.00||2||2||0||0||0||4.0||2||0||0||0||1||1||7|