A look at Quinn Priester's improved pitch mix

Pittsburgh Pirates' young right-handed pitcher Quinn Priester has sharpened up his pitch mix and has looked much better to open the 2024 season.
Apr 19, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Quinn Priester
Apr 19, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Quinn Priester / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Former Pittsburgh Pirates’ first-round pick Quinn Priester has pitched in two games this year. While his 2024 debut in the bigs did not go well, his second start was masterful. He tossed six scoreless innings with six K’s and just one walk allowed. This was the kind of Priester we expected to see when he was in the minor leagues. He was locating well and got a ton of ground balls, along with some whiffs. But Priester has to thank his reworked stuff for what could be a potential rebound this season.

Priester’s fastball has a lot more movement compared to last year. It has a much better ride through the strike zone. According to Baseball Savant, his four-seamer had 19 inches of vertical drop last year. That’s now down to 16.8 inches. Priester’s fastball only had two inches of arm-side run but now has 6.5 inches. He is still sitting 92-94 MPH, but he has definitely changed the way he spins the ball. His four-seamer’s RPM last year averaged out at 2355 RPM but is now down to 2200 RPM.

How much spin isn’t as important as how he spins it. Priester’s active spin rate on his fastball was only 65% last year but is now up to 79%. So far in the two-game sample size in the Major Leagues, Priester has upped his whiff rate from just 14.3% in 2023 to 36.4%. But Priester’s fastball isn’t the only offering in his arsenal with more movement. 

Priester’s sinker has also gained about two inches of both horizontal and vertical break. While he’s lost a slight touch of velocity, it wasn’t a drastic amount, dropping from 93.6 MPH to 92.9 MPH. Like his four-seamer, Priester has changed the way he spins the ball, seeing his active spin rate rise from 76% to 80%, and his RPM go from 2180 to 2045. His whiff rate has gone up to 14.3%, but more importantly, batters have a negative launch angle and exit velocity of just 82.7 MPH against the pitch.

The third pitch that the former first-round pick by the Pirates has improved upon is his slider.

He’s sacrificed some movement on his slider for more velocity. Last year, his slider sat 85.3 MPH with 39.7 inches of vertical movement and 4.6 inches of glove-side break. While he has less vertical break at 33.7 inches, and he still has about the same horizontal movement at 4.3 inches, Priester is now sitting at 86.6 MPH. His whiff rate on this pitch is 35.3%. 

Priester’s curveball was always considered his best pitch, and it hasn’t changed much in velocity or movement. Neither has his change-up. But his fastball, sinker, and slider have all gained either speed or movement. Priester had some questions to answer heading into this year, and so far, the stuff has looked good. Hopefully, this leads to more starts that more closely resemble his one against the San Francisco Giants, as well as what he was doing at Triple-A to open 2024, than his first outing against the Boston Red Sox earlier this month.