Sunday afternoon, Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Quinn Priester took the time to talk about his time in the instructional league, 2021 expectations and more
Do you guys remember a little series I did called “A Day in the Life of a Minor Leaguer?” If so, then you are a real one, and I appreciate the hell out of you, and if not, that’s ok, I’ll explain. It was a series of interviews conducted with several Pittsburgh Pirates prospects, during which we discussed everything from baseball to life in general. One of the prospects intrerviewed in this series was pitcher Quinn Priester.
Since being draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 18th overall pick in the 2019 draft, Priester’s stock has done nothing but skyrocket. He’s made it into the top 100 prospects list on several sites, including MLB Pipeline and other prominent sites. This offseason, there have been few prospects in baseball who have garnered more praise than Priester.
First and foremost we want to thank Priester for taking the time out of his day to do this interview. That said, the first question asked of Priester was about what the overall experience was like for him at the alternate site during the 2020 season and what he took away from it.
“The experience was awesome. I got the opportunity to meet a bunch of the older players within the minor league system like Double-A, Triple-A, and even guys up and down from the bigs.” Priester added, “It was great to be around those guys who have their routine set and know what they are doing and know what their goals are every day. So to be around those guys who possessed those skills was very huge for me.”
“I was able to ask questions and watch and learn from them all. I was able to see from the hitters perspective to see what they’re looking for in certain counts and figure out what works and what doesn’t. Then I would watch and talk to the pitchers and see their routines and figure out what different things can I do to make my throwing program more efficient or what I can do to recover better and how I can make that part of my routine that ultimately I think will always be changing and developing with the times,” Priester added.
I can tell you honestly that Priester sounds totally different from when we first spoke in early 2020. You can sense some kind of new found confidence and quiet fire. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t shaking with excitement with every word he said. Priester is going to be a problem for opposing hitters.
Even though there wasn’t technically a 2020 season for many of the players on the taxi squad, including Priester, for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the rest of basbeall, it still counted as Priester’s second full season in pro ball. So this begged the question of what was he working on in 2020 to improve his game and was it something specific.
“The biggest thing I had worked on was still trying to develop the change up, and last year it got better and I got more confident with it. The next thing I focused on, as simple as it sounds, was just getting outs. Getting outs was all I cared about when I stepped foot on the alternate site and even when I was at home. I was throwing against guys like Alex Thomas and Donovan Williams back at home and my main goal was getting them out and competing with the guy in the box.”
Priester added, “Using that change up, throwing offspeed stuff for strikes and then complementing it with a fastball helped me to achieve that ultimate goal of getting outs. If I had to say there was an individual pitch or thing I was working on, I’d say working on getting comfortable with my changeup.”
With that answer, I felt like I had to follow it up by asking him directly if he’s now comfortable throwing that change up in a live game. Especially after national reports were saying his change up has come a long way. This is what Priester had to say:
“I’m a lot more comfortable throwing it now. My best offspeed pitch is my curveball, and my curve is definitely my go-to, but I do feel confident throwing a change up behind in counts and also ahead. Being able to do that and finally having that confidence of knowing it’s a good pitch and trusting it is a bit comforting and exciting. I would say there is still work to be done, but I still think this can be a plus pitch for me as I continue to get older.”
Long gone are the days of watching YouTube and trying to formulate a delivery and pitching stance in that basement for Priester. 2020 was his second full year of having a pitching coach or multiple at the alternate site. I was curious what having all of those minds help him and teach him felt like.
“It was really great, to put it mildly. (Joel) Hanrahan was awesome, and (minor league pitching coordinator) TJ Large was a huge help, and it was really fun to learn from those guys because they’re going to tell it to you straight. They would say stuff like stop messing around and just throw it, man, and go for it. That really simplified it for me because I have a tendency to over-think things, so when they tell me just throw it, my mind calms down and brings things back to normal.”
Priester continued, “When I was home, I did a lot of work out in Harrisburg, PA, at a facility called Full Reps. While we were in quarantine, I was able to get out there with Scott Swanson, who runs the facility, and work out a lot of movement based things. I changed a little bit into my delivery to be more efficient and to also be able to go longer in games. That was also a huge reason for my success towards the end of the year. It was definitely a collaborative effort from coaches to even other players. I like to learn everything I can because you never know what’s going to click.”
The whole time he was talking, I was reminded of Rhianna’s banger. WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK. Priester has put in the work, and if all the reports are true, it has paid off tenfold.
Now we get into the fun stuff, and that is his time in the instructional league. His entire time in the instructional league Priester kpet turning heads and garnering praise from scouts and minor league publications across baseball. Obviously, something went well down in Florida, so I asked the man himself how things went.
“It was a lot of fun, and it was good to finally play some real games again where I had to hold runners and things like that. It was great to be around the guys that I had gotten drafted with or at least a lot of them and continue to play with them and be on the same field! The baseball was great too. I kind of just simplified everything, and I didn’t put too much pressure on myself and I enjoyed being in Florida and not in Chicago in October.”
Something specific that made its rounds on Twitter back in October was a certain at-bat where the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect showcased what he can do. Priester faced off against Adely Rutschman who is top 5 prospect in all of baseball. This AB was pretty significant to me and a good friend of Rum Bunter who posed this question to ask the Pittsburgh Pirates top pitching prospect. In the at-bat, Priester struck out Rutschman looking with what looked to be a slider, and I wanted him to talk about the AB and his delivery when he struck him out.
“Ok, if I’m honest, it was just a bad curveball. That at-bat was cool, and obviously, I know it’s Adley Rutschman, and this is the number one pick in the draft, and I was pretty fired up! So the game before, we were playing the Orioles, and it got rained out, and I think Rutschman was going to be at in the next inning, and I was looking forward to that at-bat. I love that idea of competition, and it is situations like this is why I’m here for, and the type of caliber I want to face, and I don’t want to take away from anyone else, but this at-bat fired me up.”
Priester continued to talk about the at-bat, “I think I went 2-0 in the count to start off with two fastballs that just missed badly because I was juiced up. Then I was thinking I’m not going to throw a 2-0 fastball because I don’t want to watch that ball go 480 feet. So I then throw a curveball, which I landed for a strike. I then went back with a challenge heater now that I showed an offspeed pitch. He fouled off that heater. Then when the strikeout came, it was throwing a curveball that I missed arm-side, but I got enough on it to where it came back and caught the corner of the plate.”
“You can call it a slider if you want I’d love that (laughter for a long time), but if I’m being transparent, it was just a curveball that looked a little bit SLURVY!”
We were joking for quite a while about it, and it’s moments like that I appreciate about Priester. For such an intense guy on the field, he truly is a nice guy and is willing to joke about a pitch that he goofed up. Due to this, fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to be big fans of Priester.
I must say, though, it still looks like a slider to me. Check out the video below and make the decision for yourself. The at-bat is from the 32-second mark until the 59-second mark. Video credit goes to Steve Givarz.
Next, we discussed the hype around him recently, with sites like MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs singing his praise from the rafters at times. Knowing all of this, I asked him what is it like receiving all of this praise.
“It’s definitely cool in a sense that this is what I have really been working towards. I’ve been working extremely hard and making changes while trying to learn as much as I can. Being able to be recognized for that is something that is quite awesome. Personally, though, I try to keep my head out of it. Of course, I have a mom, and she sends me this stuff, so obviously, I can’t stay out of it completely.”
“Basically, what I’m trying to say is I try to stay out of it because I don’t like to read too much into it super deep. MLB Pipeline said I pitched really well at instructs, but that doesn’t mean I’ll pitch really well this season. That falls on me I have to actually pitch well this season. Just because someone wrote it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, and it doesn’t mean I can take the foot off the gas, so to speak.”
“I do appreciate all of the praise, though, and showing interest and support, and it’s humbling because it shows me that there’s still a lot more to go. I think the highest they had me ranked is 52, but there’s still 51 more spots to go!”
Can we just stop for a moment and admire what Priester had to say? I love that he doesn’t let the limelight get to him, and I also love that he feels like there is still room to improve. His passion for improving and his passion for the game is something every kid reading this and every kid aspiring to play baseball should be. Again, fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates will love him. Ok, sorry, back to the article.
To more recent news with Priester, he has received his first invite to MLB camp. With news like this, I’m sure he jumped up and down when he got the call to head down to Florida and participate for spring training. So, how did Priester feel when he got this call from the Pittsburgh Pirates?
“That was incredible, man! That had to be one of the best phone calls I have received so far! That phone call represented all of the hard work I’ve put in to date. I was out every single day at home with my catcher Drew Stengren throwing and working with my cousin Alex every morning and staying ready.”
“Watching all of the guys during Spring Training last year and seeing all of the freedom they had and everything that came with being there became motivation for me to get there this year. That call I received was an unexpected one for sure with the coronavirus I thought I might be at home. That phone call was really special, and I’m looking to do a lot and learn a lot from the older guys down here and keep building up what I had going for me last year.”
Moving forward to the last question, but certainly not the least important, question for Priester. I wanted to know what should we expect from Priester in 2021 and what he is going to bring to the table as far as pitching goes.
“I think just a lot more comfortable and confident than I’ve been. I know that in my first year of pro ball, I was still feeling everything out and learning what it was like to be a professional. I feel with last year at the alternate site, and in instructs, I was able to get a grip on that and started to get a better understanding of pitching and situational pitching and being able to mix and sequence.”
“Back in high school, I had no idea how mixing pitches or sequencing worked. I was just throwing fastballs, and if that wasn’t working, I’d move to a curveball. I think I’ve gotten a lot smarter, which has made me more confident, and I don’t try to do too much. So 2021, Quinn Priester will have a more confident mound presence and look more comfortable out there.”
This interview was a great experience for several reasons. The first reason was I got to reconnect with such a great individual in Priester. The second reason is I got to do what I love to do, and that’s talk to a Pirate prospect. The third and final reason is I learned more about one of the best prospects not just in the Pittsburgh Pirates system but in all of the systems!