This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.
The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff has dwindled since the news of Johan Oviedo’s season ending surgery recently. With what little starting pitching the Pirates have left, their eyes turn to several young Bucs like Quinn Priester.
In former Pirates general manager Neal Huntington’s last MLB Draft, he selected Priester 18th overall out of Cary-Grove High School in Illinois.
Many things made Priester an interesting prospect, but the biggest one was his lack of a pitching coach in high school. In addition, there were stories of Priester learning different mechanics in his Illinois basement.
Throughout his Pirates career in the minors, Priester has had several ups and downs.
Despite those ups and downs, Priester accumulated a 22-14 record with an ERA of 3.44 during his four minor league seasons with the Pirates. In addition, the righty allowed 21 homers, walked 130, and struck out 344 in 333.2 innings pitched over those four seasons.
Coming into the 2019 draft, Priester’s curveball was his eye-popping pitch. MLB Pipeline categorized it as a “tight spin and good depth.” In addition, his 6-foot-3 frame added some athleticism and future value to velocity upticks.
The potential in velocity uptick has yet to come to fruition for Priester. at least in the majors. Priester’s four-seam averaged 92.8 mph and his sinker was 93.5 mph.
Looking purely at the numbers presented in 2023 at the major league level, Priester’s four-seam put up atrocious numbers. Against 169 four-seamers thrown, Priester allowed an average of .386 with a slugging of .818.
With his command issues and lack of velocity, Priester and the Pirates may want to scrap his four-seam and stick with the his sinker for the most part. In comparison, Priester’s four-seam usage was at 19.5% at the major league level, for better results, the Pirates might want to sink that number below 10%.
To be honest, Priester’s sinker wasn’t all that much better. Opponents may have hit .261 against it, but the xBA was .317 and he had a hard hit percentage of 54.8%.
The bright spot for Priester is his slider, which could suggest a bullpen option in the future.
Priester threw his slider 23.2% of the time and opponents hit .295 against it with an xBA of .254. In addition, his whiff percentage was 41.4 and had a K% of 26.9%.
2024 is going to be a big year for Priester and his development. Despite going 3-3 in the majors, Priester’s ERA was 7.74 with a FIP of 6.74 and a slightly better xFIP of 5.10.
We’ve seen late bloomers like Mitch Keller, but the question is, can the Pirates’ staff mold Priester into the pitcher he is expected to be?