Greensboro Grasshoppers: Quinn Priester Fighting Control in July, Still Showing Growth

Photo Credit: Matt Freed/Post Gazette

 In his first full season of professional baseball, Quinn Priester has seen plenty of ups and downs, as any young prospect would. 

The first round pick in 2019 and top 100 prospect has shown flashes as to why he is so highly regarded by just about anyone who follows the minor leagues, but has also very much looked like a player still finding his footing.

No one can deny the arsenal that Priester possesses. Armed with one of the best curveballs in the minor leagues, Priester has shown some of the swing and miss ability that makes him a top prospect, but his control at times has wavered and put him in spots where he can't pitch as deep into games as he would like.

We saw a little bit of both of Priester in his most recent start. He managed to go deep into the game, finishing six innings for just the second time in his professional career, but also had two frames in which he struggled to find the strike zone.

You got to see the curveball at work, early on in the game, using it primarily to get his second strikeout of the game, ending the first inning. The first three pitches of the at bat netted him two swing and misses, and a ball that was barely fouled off. 

He then threw his fastball to try and change speeds, before alternating between pitches before finally getting Tyler Dearden to swing at a curve in the dirt for strike three.

But he also struggled with his control at times at well. The third inning saw him throw 26 total pitches, with only 12 of them going for strikes. He did produce five swing and misses in the inning, but allowed a walk and had a few hard hit balls for singles.

A Liover Peguero error failed to secure a double play that would have helped get out the inning sooner, but regardless Priester put some pitches in a position to get hit pretty hard. A line drive out was one of hardest hit balls he surrendered, it was hit so hard that it allowed Matt Gorski to double up a base runner who took off as a part of a hit and run.

Priester would bounce back and pitch incredibly efficient the next two innings. Needing only 24 pitches to get through the third and fourth innings. Of those 24 pitches, 15 came for strikes and he was still able to generate three swing and misses despite throwing mostly for contact. That's coming after he only needing 17 pitches to get through the first two innings. 

So in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings, Priester needed just 41 combined pitches, 29 of which was for strikes (70%). In the two other innings, he threw 48 pitches, only 22 for which was for strikes.

In the month of July, it's really been Priester himself that's giving him the most trouble. He has a 3.17 ERA in three starts this month, but has only allowed nine hits in 17 innings and has held opponents to a .155 average. He's even getting ground outs at a higher rate than previous months (2.70 GO/AO), but he's walked nine batters at the same time, putting more batters on base.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that Priester is in his first full season, and his innings count has been mostly monitored as well. He's thrown just 55 innings this season across 12 starts. With 17 innings coming in his last three starts, that's just 38 in just his first nine outings. That's about 4 1/3 innings per start. 

With about eight starts remaining for Priester this season (assuming they continue the six man rotation), it will be interesting where they go from here. They could allow to continue to let him figure things out in Greensboro, monitor his innings and then maybe truly let him go next season in Altoona.

Or they could push him a little bit, and challenge his stuff by putting him in Altoona for a start or two at the end of the season. Either way, it's hard not to be excited by Priester stuff and how he's improving with each start.

Around the minors

>> Steven Brault continued his rehab assignment Friday night with the Indianapolis Indians. The lefty looks close to be ready to make his season debut for the Pirates after pitching four perfect innings while striking out six batters. He got up to 58 pitches, 39 for strikes. 

With the deadline closing in and the Pirates expected to trade Tyler Anderson, it would be perfect timing to have Brault slide right into his spot in the rotation.

>> Mason Martin had a couple of strong at bats early on in the game before I tuned into the Greensboro game. He hit an RBI double to left center on a full count in the first inning before striking out in his next at bat. I know strikeouts are a concern with him, but he did a good job working the count deep, the pitcher just made a good pitch.

>> Blake Sabol continues to thrive in the Greensboro lineup, hitting his fourth home run in 11 games since getting called up from Bradenton. 

>> Speaking of the Marauders, three different hitters (Maikol Escotto, Jack Herman and Eli Wilson) all recorded three-hit games in their win on Friday. Drake Fellows made his Bradenton debut and threw 2 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out four while allowing a home run. In the end he was credited with the win.

What did you think of Priester's performance? Do you think he should pitch in Altoona this year? Or should the Pirates be cautious with their prized prospect? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, subscribe to the site with the link at the top of the site and follow us on Twitter @SportBlogMurphy.

Also, follow us on Twitter @AJ_Murfy.

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