Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Appreciating Quinn Priester’s 2021 Season

Pittsburgh Pirates top pitching prospect Quinn Priester had a strong 2021 season at the High-A level and it may have been even more impressive than you realize

Last year, Pittsburgh Pirates top pitching prospect Quinn Priester had a quality season with the organization’s High-A affiliate, the Greensboro Grasshoppers. In 97.2 innings, Priester had a 3.04 ERA, 4.08 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP. He only gave up eight home runs all year for a 0.74 HR/9. Plus, he had a healthy 24.1% strikeout rate and a 9.6% walk rate.

As the weather heated up, so did Priester. In the second half of the season, Priester was phenomenal. His final 48.2 innings of his campaign yielded a 2.59 ERA, 3.35 WHIP, and 1.11 WHIP. Priester upped his strikeout rate to 27% while keeping a solid 9.2% walk rate. He gave up just two home runs in nearly 50 innings of work. That is a sub-0.50 HR/9, sitting at precisely .37.

Priester’s numbers were great. There’s no doubting that. But I think it’s all the more impressive considering the environment he did that in. Priester pitching in a high-offense environment. The average ERA for pitchers in the Grasshopper’s division was over 4.50, sitting at 4.77. Three of the seven teams had an ERA hovering or above 5.00.

The Hickory Crawdads (4.99), Asheville Tourists (5.68), and Winston-Salem Dash (5.73). Overall, the average ERA at High-A was 5.10, making Priester over 2.00 runs better than the average. If you want an MLB comparrison to what 2 runs better than average looks like, only one pitcher started 15+ games and had an ERA of 2.27 (MLB average was 4.27) or lower, that being Jacob deGrom.

Priester posted the lowest ERA by any High-A East pitcher in at least 80 innings by nearly an entire run. The next closest was New York Yankees’ farmhand Mitch Spence, at 3.94. Priester was also one of 26 of 81 total pitchers who had a sub-1.0 HR/9 rate in at least 50 innings of work.

Not only did Priester pitch well in a hitter-friendly environment, but he did it while being much younger than the competition. This was only Priester’s age-20 season. Going into 2021, he had just four innings pitched above Rookie-Ball. The average age for batters was nearly 23-years-old. He was able to post as good results as he did when the rest of the league was over two years older than he was.

Priester had put up some very quality numbers with the Greensboro Grasshoppers despite pitching in a highly hitter-friendly environment. The fact he had as good of numbers in the second half, with a sub-3.50 ERA and FIP, gives him an extremely bright outlook. If he can pitch well in an environment with so much working against him, think of what he can do in a more neutral or even pitcher-friendly environment.