Quinn Priester Discusses Fastball Velocity, Mechanics, Changeup, and His 2020 Season

I had a chance to talk with Pirates’ 2019 first round pick Quinn Priester earlier this week, discussing his time at the alternate training site in Altoona so far, along with his work so far this season. You can check out my article on Priester over at Baseball America, detailing some of the things he has been working on, including his increased fastball velocity and his changeup work.

Priester was sitting 96-97, touching 98 in his first outing in Altoona, which is higher than where he was in 2019. We discussed what led to that velocity increase, how his pitches were performing, his developmental focus this year, and whether he had been focusing on the trend of shortening his arm action.

Here are some other highlights from our conversation:

Development work during time off

Priester: “I feel like my fastballs are playing better than they ever have, velocity wise, and I’m kind of figuring out where the pitches that I do have play the best, and off of what. Kind of sequencing and tunneling stuff that I’m learning every time I go out and pitch.

“When I was home, I saw it as an opportunity to continue to get stronger, and continue to develop those different things and learn, versus kind of mindlessly competing. I think that competing is great, but there are definitely goals I set for myself when I went out, so that once baseball came back I’d be a lot better from it, and I’d be able to compete from a higher level than I did at Spring Training this year.”

Taxi squad experience

Priester: “It’s been kind of a weight lifted off my shoulders. It feels a lot more natural, I’m a lot more comfortable in this setting than I am at home trying to make things come together so I can get the work in, versus having a lot of resources here that I wouldn’t otherwise have.”

His stuff in his first game

Priester: “I think a lot of the work I’ve been doing at home is paying off now. There are definitely a lot of things I still need to clean up and be better for my next outing. Being able to finally get out and compete against really good hitters like the ones we have here, and be able to have an infield behind me, versus guessing if it’s a base hit or not if people put the ball in play at home, it was a lot of fun.

“I’m going to keep focusing on enjoying myself out here, as well as trying to get as much out of it as I can. That first outing, I’m really happy with what I did, but there’s definitely some things I need to clean up to make the next one better.”

What kind of things?

Priester: “I think that my fastball command wasn’t great that outing, and I think to be able to open up the zone a bit more for myself, I need to be able to command both sides of the plate up and down, which is what I struggled with during the outing. My offspeed stuff was a lot better. The curveball and slider were working, so I was able to get in the zone, get on guys, and compete with that. Going forward, once these hitters start to see me more, and get a report on my stuff, I’m going to have to open the zone up more with my fastball.”

Fastball command

Priester: “I think I was just trying to be a little too perfect. Just the command in general was very inconsistent. There would be pitches where I’d get exactly where I wanted to with the fastball, and it was good, but most of the time it was not as consistent as I’d like it to be. That’s something, kind of slowing the game down and working throughout the throwing program this week is definitely going to help the outcome for this next start.”

The Key to His Mechanics

Priester: “I feel it’s not necessarily shortening my arm, but it’s a variety of other things to do with my lower half to get my arm in the right position to throw and execute the right pitch. For some guys, shortening that arm can get it to 90 degrees when your landing foot hits the ground.

“For me, it’s more to do with getting into my glute and loading a little bit better, which in turn will buy me that time to get my arm into the right position. I think it’s more toward knowing your body, and then the posture thing, staying taller, keeping your core and spine straight throughout your delivery is a big thing. It’s different for every guy, and for me it’s more-so an emphasis on the lower half than on the arm itself.”

Lower half work

Priester: “My cue to myself is stay taller. Sometimes when I’m trying to get really fine with what I’m trying to do, I sink into my back leg to where I get very, very quad dominated, and I sink really low and then that causes everything in my motion to be late. That arm lags behind, I have a tendency to miss arm side. Once I stay taller, I stay more into my glute, and into my backside. I get into my backside, arm gets more on time, and I’m able to execute the tougher pitches to execute. That’s kind of my cue to myself, is to stay tall, and stay through the plate. Throw right through the middle of the plate, versus falling off to the left. If I’m doing those things consistently, I’ll probably have a good day on the mound. If I am trying to feel that out still while I’m on the mound, I might not have as much success.”

Has the changeup been the biggest pitch focus?

Priester: “Hands down. I need to get it down, especially to lefties. I like to throw right-right changeups, but it’s a more advantageous pitch when I’m throwing it to lefties. If I can get that down, it plays really well off a two-seam that runs out to lefties, and also a fastball in. That pitch I’m definitely still working on it. I have a tendency to baby it, and not throw it with my full intent. It’s more of a mindset thing than it is a grip. I’m still working on that, pushing myself to throw it, especially when I’m here, throwing it against good hitters. When I have success against some of our organization’s best, then I think the confidence in the pitch will go up.”

Changeup Mindset

Priester: “Once I grip that pitch, to stop thinking. That’s the biggest thing. I grip it, and I’m looking at the zone and thinking about what I need to do to execute it well. I’m going to trust myself and my body and arm to get it there. Keep that same fastball mentality with every pitch. That’s something that I’m definitely working on every single day.”

Velocity Increase

Priester: “I think it’s a combination of getting stronger, getting a better feel for my body and how to transfer energy. Like I was talking about, getting into that backside. Also, not trying to overdo it. When I try and throw hard, I throw softer. For whatever reason, my body doesn’t register throughout my brain and my body when I think I need to throw one real hard. I just need to keep learning about myself and just stay within myself, and the velocity will come, especially as I get older and stronger. It’s going to hopefully keep staying there. My goal for it, I’m not actively trying to be a guy that sits 100. I just want to make sure I can consistently hold my velocity. I don’t want to be throwing 96-98 in the first inning, and then down the road in the sixth inning throwing 91-92. That’s not effective, and I don’t think that’s in my best interest as a pitcher and for my longevity. My goal now is to maintain that velocity through games.”

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