The Pittsburgh Pirates Double-A affiliate has a great lineup, but the rotation could be a strong part of the roster as well.
A few weeks ago, we took a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates Double-A affiliate, the Altoona Curve, and their potential Opening Day lineup. Their stacked line-up holds first-rounders like Nick Gonzales and Connor Scott, high-end shortstop prospect Liover Peguero, and 2021 breakout prospects Jared Triolo and Lolo Sanchez. Altoona may have one of the best minor league affiliate lineups.
But the rotation can hold its own when comparing it to the lineup. The starting 5 have plenty of very talented pitchers, and some of them have the highest ceilings in the organization. This is the upper minors, giving the Pittsburgh Pirates a promising outlook for the near future.
So if the rotation is so good, what are we looking at here? What arms will the Curve be trotting out every game to start?
Quinn Priester is the organization’s best pitching prospect. He’s a consensus top 100 prospect who made strides to improve his game over the past few years and he has become one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. He’ll still be pretty young at just 21-years-old, but the talent is there for the right-hander.
Last season Preister spent the entire season at High-A Greensboro. He pitched a total of 97.2 innings, posting a 3.07 ERA, 4.08 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP. He also had a healthy 24.1% strikeout rate, 0.74 HR/9, and 9.6% walk rate. The number of free passes he allowed was a bit high, but not to a worrying degree. Plus, with a 54.7% ground ball rate, home runs were pretty much a non-issue for him.
Priester got better as the season went on. From July 23rd through the end of the campaign, the talented pitcher had a 2.80 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP. His strikeout rate sat at 27% through his final 48.2 innings, and he allowed just two home runs. His walk rate was still a tad high at 9.2%, but it wasn’t anything to worry about again.
Priester throws a variety of offerings. The best is his curveball, which is arguably the best curveball in the minor leagues. He throws it around the low-80’s with break FanGraphs compared to Adam Wainwright’s curve. FanGraphs loves it as it’s an 80-projected pitch. His fastball has seen some improvement since the 2020-2021 off-season and sits around 96-97 MPH with about 2200 RPM. That’s far from the only offerings he throws.
Preister has displayed a strong slider/cutter that FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline see as a third above-average offering. He has a change-up that gives him a fourth average pitch. Finally, there’s his sinking two-seamer that he uses to get a ton of ground balls on.
Priester has everything you want in a starting pitching prospect who looks to be your future ace. He has the size, standing at 6’3″, 210 pounds, the arsenal with three offerings projecting to be 60 or better and two more that project to be 50 or better, and the stats to back it up. Given Priester’s talent, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise to see him at the tail-end of 2022, ala Roansy Contreras or Oneil Cruz.