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Prospect Highlight: A look into Quinn Priester

by Ryan Lang

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Quinn Priester was drafted out of high school with the 18th overall spot in the 2019 MLB draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates liked his upside and his future as a starting pitcher.

Priester jumped right into professional ball, starting 16 games in 2019 and going 2-2 with 82 strikeouts in 73 innings pitched. He did not get to show what he had until 2021 since Covid wiped out the 2020 season. In 2021 he posted a solid 3.04 ERA in high A and combined that ERA with almost 100 strikeouts, finishing with 98 in 97.2 innings. This was the start that everyone in the front office had imagined for their former first-round pick.

Despite missing two months with an oblique injury, he put up decent numbers again in 2022, finishing the season with a 3.29 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 90.1 innings. His bounce back and another year of good numbers was a good sign for the Pirates' brass. After the minor league season, he entered a fall league to make up for his missed time with his oblique injury. Priester would start 6 games and once again put up a strikeout per inning.

Priester is now in AAA and has posted a ridiculous 1.13 ERA throughout the month of May. He’s shown consistent improvement during his short professional career, and one big reason for this growth has come with the addition of a sinker and cutter to his repertoire. His fastball at times hadn’t been a difference maker and tended to not have the movement he wanted. Adding these pitches has made his fastball more efficient as stats will bear out.

Priester’s maturity goes beyond his years, as many young players would struggle to adapt and add new pitches so quickly. But as a student of the game, he’s put himself ahead of schedule. He’s got a great mix of a curveball, changeup, slider, fastball, cutter and sinker, and his progress is reminiscent of Mitch Keller’s, putting more of an emphasis on his sinker instead of his fastball—and it has shown in improved numbers.

It would be shocking if Priester doesn't get the call to the majors at some point this year. While the team recently promoted Luis Ortiz, the inconsistency and age of Rich Hill and Johan Oviedo makes it easy to see a time when Priester gets a chance. The Pirates' rotation started the year off hot but the struggles of late may be showing their true colors. Outside of Mitch Keller, no one pitcher has been consistent and bringing up their No. 4 prospect might just give the club the spark they need.

Looking at the horizon as we often do with prospects like Priester, Draft 412 can envision a scenario within the next 3-4 years where the Pirates have one of the best young 1-2 punches in all of baseball. That is assuming Mitch Keller continues his early season success and Priester develops into his full potential.

Before the 2023 season, Priester expressed some ambitious sentiments, stating that he doesn’t just have his mind set on “making it to the big leagues” this season, but he wanted to win the Rookie of the Year. Those expectations may be pretty hard to reach as he is still in AAA. However, he can still find himself locked into the starting rotation by the end of the season if he can continue to grow and be consistent. Quinn Priester replacing Hill or Oviedo by the end of the year seems to be becoming more and more likely every day.

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