Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Quinn Priester Changing Up His Arsenal, Finding Success

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Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Quinn Priester has added two new pitches to his arsenal this year and it's led to recent success

Going into 2023 one of the Pittsburgh Pirates best pitching prospects was former 2019 first-round pick Quinn Priester. Although highly talented, there were certainly some concerns about how he would play at the next level.

He displayed an outstanding curveball, along with a solid changeup and slider. However, his fastball left much to be desired. He threw it with okay velocity but worrylingly flat. However, in an effort to improve his arsenal and outlook, he’s added two pitches this year: a sinker and a cutter.

We’ll first look at Priester’s sinker.

Priester threw his first sinker of the season in his second game of the year. Priester averaged out around 91-94 MPH with his newly added pitch. During this game in particular, he used it much more often than his four-seam fastball. Priester’s sinker was sitting with 20-25 inches of vertical break with about 12-15 inches of horizontal movement.

It was only Priester’s most recent outing where he was throwing a pitch Baseball Savant identified as a cutter. He doesn’t throw it particularly hard, coming in around 88-90 MPH. However, he consistently sat above 20 inches of vertical movement, topping out at 28 inches. However, he typically throws it with less than six inches of horizontal movement.

There’s definitely a difference between his cutter and slider. Priester’s slider is slower at 85-88 MPH. However, he makes up for the lower velocity with more movement. He consistently gets over six inches of horizontal break but puts much more vertical drop. The least amount of vertical break he tossed his slider within his most recent game was 29 inches, topping out at 41 inches. This essentially means his cutter is a harder version of his slider.

So what does this mean for Priester and his future? Well, I think he could certainly take a 2022 Mitch Keller-like route to the big leagues. Last season, Keller also put his four-seam fastball on the back burner, opting instead to go with a sinker. After making a sinker a primary part of his arsenal, Keller had a strong 3.20 ERA, 3.67 FIP, and 1.35 WHIP. That was only one facet of Keller’s breakout, but a major factor at that.

Another, maybe overly optimistic, comparison that has been made is former All-Star Aaron Sanchez. This comparison is made by FanGraphs, based on their similar reports (sinkerballers whose primary way of getting outs is to induce ground balls). Sanchez was also a sinkerballer who used the pitch en route to an ERA title, an All-Star Game, and a few Cy Young votes in 2016. Sanchez was on track to becoming one of baseball’s best-starting pitchers, but injuries derailed his career. However, I’m sure there’s not one single Pirates fan who wouldn’t take a healthy version of what Sanchez could have become out of Priester.

Ultimately, Priester’s newly added pitches could greatly help him in the long run. It helps him put his four-seam fastball on the back burner and adds two offerings that could complement his plus-plus curveball. Plus who konws, maybe he figures something out to make his four-seamer a better overall pitch in the future.

After all, he is only 22, and he's talented enough to learn two new pitches. Who's to say that he can't improve one? Either way, hopefully, the Pirates will get Priester in the major leagues soon and take over a starting rotation spot.

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