Pirates Prospects Daily: Baseball Development Isn’t Linear

Quinn Priester was sent down to the minors yesterday, after making six starts with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Priester had a 9.10 ERA in 28.2 innings of work.

Priester has one of the best curveballs in the system. That resulted in a .733 OPS and a 12.9% whiff rate in the big leagues. The downside to the pitch isn’t the actual pitch. It’s what Priester pairs with the curveball. His four-seam fastball has been crushed to the tune of a 1.397 OPS, with a 5.9% whiff rate. That pitch sets up the high/low split on the curve, and Priester is missing with the setup.

He’s added a cut slider, which has generated a 16.9% whiff rate, but a 1.190 OPS against. His sinker is the better fastball, but still had an .860 OPS. He also struggles with control with this pitch. The sinker/slider combo led to a lot of his control issues in the big leagues, leading to a 12.9% walk rate.

On the bright side, his changeup led to a .538 OPS against.

It’s not great to see a former first round pick arrive and struggle in the majors. The answer for Priester is to make his four-seam fastball more difficult to hit, which has been a challenge his entire career. An alternate approach would be finding control with the sinker/slider mix, which really reduces the impact of his elite curveball. He could also look for a replacement pitch for the four-seam to incorporate that curveball more effectively.

Baseball development isn’t linear. Everyone wants to see a player arrive in the majors and easily adjust with performance that can be counted on for years. The reality is that most players struggle when they first arrive, and not all of them adjust. Priester is only 22-years-old. There’s no guarantee that he will improve on his stuff, but he’s got the type of work ethic that you’d bet on.

The alarming thing here is that Priester reached the big leagues without a pitch mix that could get outs. He’s still mostly relying on tools, with questions of how those tools will play in the majors. This is shown with the curveball — his best pitch, of which he lacks a setup offering.

The Pirates saw something similar with Mitch Keller. It took him a few years to adjust, though Keller has struggled as well. He’s got a 4.27 ERA in 149.2 innings this year, which is an improvement over his 7.13 ERA in his debut in 2019. Hopefully it won’t take until 2025-26 for Priester to improve his game enough to be a consistent MLB starter.


PIRATES (54-66) AT Mets

Score: Pirates 7, Mets 4
Pittsburgh Starter: Bailey Falter, LHP (4.86)
–Line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR
Player of the Game: Liover Peguero, SS (2-for-4, HR [5], BB, RBI)
Attendance: 35,439

Notable Performers

  • Connor Joe, 1B (2-for-3, 2B, 2 BB)
  • Jason Delay, C (1-for-4, BB, 2B, 2 RBI)
  • Colin Holderman, RHP (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K)
  • David Bednar, RHP (1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K)

One Sentence Recap: The Pirates exploded for a six run top of the seventh inning, after Bailey Falter — acquired for Rodolfo Castro at the trade deadline — worked for 5.1 innings to keep the Mets off the board.


Greensboro showed off some power last night. The first home run came from Josiah Sightler in the first inning, his fifth of the year.

The next one added insurance in the top of the eighth, although there was a question of whether the ball stayed fair. It was ruled fair, though.

There was absolutely no doubt about this next one, with Termarr Johnson crushing a pitch for his third homer in three games.


I’m in Greensboro this week, and the daily Prospect Watch will have updates on all of the action.

Pirates Prospect Watch: Po-Yu Chen and The Greensboro Power Bats



Roansy Contreras made his latest start last night, throwing four innings of one run ball. Contreras has allowed just one run in seven innings across two starts in Triple-A.


Sean Sullivan threw 5.1 innings for Altoona, allowing two runs on four hits, walking two and striking out five. He’s got a 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings this month across three starts.


Po-Yu Chen was on the mound last night, and I led off the Prospect Watch with a report on his start.


Paul Skenes was on the mound for Bradenton, pitching one scoreless inning in a 14-13 victory.


Michael Kennedy threw 4.2 innings of one-run ball in the FCL. For all of the action, check out the Prospect Watch.


For any of you Magic the Gathering fans (I can’t dedicate my database brain to that complex system), someone recently pulled a 1-of-1 card with Tolkien’s One Ring. Post Malone, a huge fan of the game, bought the card for $2 million. I think that makes him the ruler of all Magic the Gathering players.

This version of Sunflower to lead off the Tiny Desk Concert is incredible.

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Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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So Pirates send down Triolo while keeping the likes of Alika Williams in Pittsburgh….mind numbing but typical bone headed decision….the worst organization in MLB…


I keep preaching to listen to Priester’s Fangraph interview before the season but he knows he’s not ready and he knew his plan this year wasn’t going to give him success at the major league level. His LONG TERM plan is great. He knows he’s on a 10-15 year journey as a ML starter. If you haven’t listen to it listen before you pass any judgment on his 2023.


 *10-15 year journey as a ML starter.*

Now, that’s a hot take!


Rotation is a total train wreck…Pirates don’t even have a competent 3, let alone a 1 or 2. Keller has proved his April and May were flukes. Priester…hard to believe he was a first round pick….


Same old same old…they hit in bunches so they can win a game now and then, and still all this time with all the drafts and all the trades and they still do not have a major league starting rotation…SAD and PATHETIC…

So whose fault is that? a big clue it’s not Nutting’s fault this time…


The Pirates lost three starters, or probable starters, due to elbow injuries early this year. Whose fault is that? I don’t think anyone can say with certainty, but arm injuries have become epidemic in Major League Baseball. One third of major league pitchers have them every year. The Brewers have lost four starters from their opening day roster and the trend is upward all over the game.

Some people blame youth baseball but there’s still the question of why it waits until a pitcher gets to or near the majors to happen? Most recent studies correlate trying to throw the ball harder and harder with the injuries. Every pitcher’s aiming for 100mph but does that lead down the road to TJS? Is an obsession with velocity the culprit and how do you stop someone from trying to obtain the one thing that might get them to or keep them in the majors?

That’s one thing that scares me about Skenes. He throws the ball around or over 100mph seemingly with ease but that elbow tendon is being stressed with every pitch. “He’s a big guy and knows how to pitch” someone will say, but so are Kumar Rocker and Jacob DeGrom who both had TJS a few months ago.

One thing seems pretty clear to me anyway. A team doesn’t need one superstar pitcher or a few star pitchers nearly as much as it needs a bunch of decent major league pitchers because some of them are going to need the knife every year unless or until someone really figures this out and finds a way to turn it around.


As they say, you can’t have too much pitching. I’m sure there are a lot of factors at play, but I think one of them is the amount of data available to pitchers, as you suggest. Whether it’s adding a few mph, increasing spin rate by a few hundred rpm, or adjusting arm slot, pitchers are making adjustments in months that go beyond how their bodies developed over years.

This is obviously anecdotal, but it seems to me that when there are reports about a sudden jump in stuff for a pitcher (e.g., Burrows), a TJ or other surgery follows more times than not. Maybe we need to get away from “jumps” and work on slower progressions.

On a positive note with Skenes, iirc he was prevented from throwing breaking pitches in youth ball and the fact that he seems to hit 100 so effortlessly, along with his frame, makes me think he’ll be one of the lucky ones. I keep thinking of Cole when I think of Skenes, and Cole has been one of the lucky ones.


Appropriate article today as Oviedo takes his place in the “Mitch Keller regression“ throne.


Great analysis on Priester Tim. I see where his fastball is rated at a 60 on MLB. I just figured that would translate to a 97 or 98 mph fastball. I am guessing he is no where close to that. Did MLB overrate his fastball or am I missing something? Any help would be appreciated.


I’m guessing old scouting reports. They had reports of him in Altoona during the pandemic of pumping high 90’s.

Coincidently, Roansy gained big velo during the pandemic. Some guys probably just ramped it up during the truncated season and peaked. It now appears neither can sustain that type of velo over the haul of 162.


IGreat reply….let me shift and ask you Tim another question. There was a period first half when Keller had an unhittable high velocity offering that was breaking late and in on right handers. He seems to have lost the break on that pitch.
Am I right? Was that his cutter?


He had stuff in the mid to high 90s that was dancing all over the place. Now it is straight as in 2 years ago.

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