Quinn Priester Boosts Stock Despite Unusual 2020 Development Cycle
Quinn Priester’s mom is going to text him about this article.
The Pirates’ top pitching prospect left scouts who saw him at instructional league raving about the progress he made during the 2020 season.
The 20-year-old righthander was getting his fastball up to 98 mph, with more conviction in his pitching. That has made him a trendy breakout pick for when baseball returns.
Priester has tried to ignore the attention that has come with those reports, but he receives texts from his mother every time there is a new article or prospect list featuring him.
“It’s awesome, we appreciate all of it,” Priester said. “It’s definitely an honor to be talked about highly by places like Baseball America. So it’s definitely really cool. But definitely keep working, keep getting better, the light at the end of the tunnel hasn’t even been seen yet, in my opinion.”
The 2019 first-rounder, taken with the 18th overall pick out of Cary-Grove High in Illinois, pitched in nine games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in his pro debut. The quick taste of pro ball at age 18 was followed by a lengthy layoff brought on by a global coronavirus pandemic. Priester and his teammates reflected on the layoff during instructs.
“We were talking like, ‘Shoot man, the last actual baseball game we’ve played was a year and a half ago in West Virginia,’ ” Priester said. “That’s crazy. That’s absurd. It’s weird to think about.
“And I definitely got the opportunity to do great things at instructs and get back to just playing a little bit. Obviously, innings down there get rolled, depending on how you’re doing. So, it’s not true, 100% baseball.”
When major league baseball started back up last July, Priester was left back at home, like many lower-level minor leaguers who saw their season canceled.
Instead, he went to a facility in central Pennsylvania called FullReps Training Center, run by Scott Swanson. It was there that he made the adjustments to bring the added velocity.
“That’s who I actually ended up making a lot of mechanical changes with,” Priester said. “That was something I had gone and explored outside of the Pirates. It was able to help me a lot, change a couple of things, movement-wise, to get those higher velos at the end of the season that you’re seeing.”
Priester worked on shortening his stride, shortening his arm path, and finding mechanics that would allow his body to move easier. The new mechanics brought his velocity bump, which was a surprise.
“This is kind of a byproduct, (and) I’m certainly not mad at that,” Priester said. “But you see guys like (the Cubs’) Kyle Hendricks, throwing 87 (mph), getting just as many or more outs as the rest of the league throwing 95-plus. At the end of the day, gotta get outs.”
Even with the added velocity, Priester didn’t have full confidence in his stuff, which is difficult to gain when you have no games to provide feedback.
“I still wasn’t completely sold on myself, to be 100% honest,” Priester said. “I wasn’t completely sure where I stood in the organization. I knew I had done everything that I possibly could that summer to stay ready and be ready for any sort of opportunity that came up, and keep getting better.”
The Pirates gave Priester a late invitation to their alternate training site in Altoona, Pa., which allowed him to throw in games against upper-level competition, including a few guys who were in and out of major league games.
“Going to that definitely shifted how I viewed myself, and how I viewed my approach to the game,” Priester said, calling his approach after the alternate site “confident and humbled.”
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Following his time in Altoona, Priester no longer asked whether he belonged, which he said raised some pressure off his shoulders. This led to a much more confident approach during instructs.
“I had half a season, and in what was supposed to be my first full season, we didn’t have a season. And then spring training, we had two weeks,” Priester said.
“So I really never had a chance to prove it to myself. And then after being able to prove to myself, I feel like there was a little bit of weight lifted off my shoulders, which allowed me to be more relaxed on the mound, and be able to execute things, because I wasn’t thinking as much.”
The Pirates invited Priester to big league camp this spring. He’ll get a chance for playing time, including a chance to get back into a game that is a bit more “100% baseball” than what he saw last summer.
“I’ll be so excited, so anxious. That first pitch might go to the backstop, I wouldn’t put that past me,” Priester said.
“That first game, I’m just going to enjoy playing again, and getting up and competing against another team. That’s something I haven’t done in way too long, and that’s something I’ve been itching for.”