Quinn Priester ends the AFL strong
SURPRISE, Arizona — A few hours before Quinn Priest hit the rubber for his sixth start with Surprise, he was named to the Fall Stars Game roster. Highest rated pitcher available for the fall circuit by MLB Pipeline (No. 44 overall), the feat is the icing on the cake of a season that saw the first round of 2019 climb all the way to Triple-A, leaving him knocking on the doors of PNC Park.
“I was pretty excited,” said Priester, the Pirates Lead #3, said after finding out. “It was definitely something I was working towards, just trying to be the best player I could be. And earning that honor is definitely proof that some things work and keep pushing hard.
Priester picked up his first Fall League victory in a 5-3 win over Salt River at Surprise Stadium on Friday, even as his afternoon got off to a bad start. A notoriously difficult solar field on the left led to a tough brace, but the 22-year-old – pitched in November for the first time – held on by getting the Cardinals’ two top prospects, Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn. , to leave a man stuck in scoring position.
Priester had the start of his year sidetracked by an oblique problem that cropped up at the end of spring training. His debut was delayed until June 9, when he made a rehab debut each for Single-A Bradenton and High-A Greensboro, before settling at the top of the Double-A Altoona rotation. On 15 starts at the level, he posted a 2.87 ERA, and bolstered by a sink on his mid-’90s heater, he limited opposing hitters to just 17.6 percent drive rate in line.
Fortifying Priester’s full pitching arsenal was paramount during his time with Surprise. He recently perfected a slider to complement his curve ball plus, as well as the deft deployment of a change. His last line Friday — five hits, two runs, two walks, four strikeouts — belied what the right-hander considers a significant step forward.
“I’m going to be completely honest: I thought today was like the best day I ever launched a slider,” Priester said. “There was definitely a couple hanging out, but as far as when I was throwing my good ones, I felt like I was really feeling what I needed to feel and going through it.
“The vouchers that I launched today, I will take them with me; the bad ones, I’m just gonna leave them here and keep working on that.
Arguably the best pitch thrown all day was a slider the right-hander broke in the first against Winn, which left MLB’s No. 51 overall prospect flailing, scoring the first punch of Priest of the day.
“It’s been a really cool opportunity to work with Henry,” Priester said. “We’re up against this Salt River team and Jordan Walker, these guys I’ll probably play with a lot later. Just a bit of our first little look at the competition now, and hopefully it’s going to be a long and fun major league competition.
Overall Fall League numbers for Priester (6.26 ERA) didn’t jump off the page, but his time spent in the wilderness was to ensure he’s a potential frontline starter when the Pirates call it. Working alongside Davis and the infielder Nick Gonzales (PIT #5) – the other two Fall Stars – gives Bucs fans a glimpse of the talented future on the horizon.
“It was a lot of fun, and obviously it wasn’t the cleanest round, but I really feel like I learned a lot and improved a lot from the competition here and from my teammates” , said Priester. “It’s been really helpful and exciting.”