Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Quinn Priester's Debut Could Be Soon

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Pittsburgh Pirates pitching project Quinn Priester could make his debut within the month based on service time and Major League roster depth

The Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation depth has been tested this year. Vince Velasquez will likely end up on the 60-day IL. The Pirates opened the year with JT Brubaker undergoing Tommy John surgery, and had top pitching prospect Mike Burrows undergo the same procedure just weeks into the season.

That leaves Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, Rich Hill, Johan Oviedo, and Luis Ortiz to cover the five spots, which while not a bad group, is shallow. Another injury, or struggles from a player could leave this rotation in a dire spot. But with the super-two ‘deadline’ likely approaching, top pitching prospect Quinn Priester’s debut might be around the corner.

Drafted in the first round of the 2019 draft, this is Priester’s first extended look at Triple-A. Across 51.1 innings, Priester owns a 4.38 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, albeit with a quality 3.39 FIP. He has a respectable 23.8% strikeout rate, but a so-so 10.3% walk rate. A ground ball heavy pitcher, his 54.9% GB%, the second highest rate of all Triple-A pitchers.

Now don’t be fooled by his ERA. Luck certainly hasn’t been on his side this year. He ended April with a batting average on balls in play of .404. No major league pitcher has put up a BAbip of .400 in 100+ innings ever. Considering there weren't any major changes in his batted ball rates, you can chalk this up to bad luck. Since May, he has a 2.27 ERA and a .291 BABIP, which is pretty much in line with his 2019-2022 rate of .291.

Priester’s start on May 27th has also inflated his numbers. In just 1.2 innings, he allowed five earned runs (plus three unearned), walked six, and only struck out three. Not only is this the shortest outing of his career, but the most walks he’s ever allowed. After that rough outing, Priester rebounded with six shutout innings, allowing just four hits, and reversing his strikeout and walk totals.

If you subtract this one outing from Priester’s season, his ERA drops to 3.62 while his BB% falls to 8.2%. Meanwhile, his strikeout climbs to 24.2%. It’s a prime example of how one start can bomb overall solid numbers. Plus some early season struggles with command could be chalked up to learning a new pitch. Priester has been favoring a sinker and cutter over his four-seam fastball, two offerings he didn’t start using regularly until this year.

Either way, Priester has had a solid season up to this point. There’s a very good chance that with the lack of depth in the major leagues, Priester will make his debut sometime in June. Plus with the way service time works, it’s very likely he will surpass the supposed Super-Two date within the coming weeks. Hopefully, he can continue to pitch well whenever he makes his big league debut.

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