Quinn Priester, a right-handed prep pitcher from Illinois, is one of the top prospects for June’s MLB draft.
He accomplished the feat, despite living in the Midwest and being a self-taught pitcher. He has never had a pitching coach and has refined his skills through trial and error.
After competing on the showcase circuit last summer, Priester thought about working with a pitching coach to assist him in his preparations for the next level.
He opted against it, though, and stuck with his methods while also incorporating the help of Elite Baseball Training’s technology consulting program last offseason. The program allowed Priester to utilize video and data to make adjustments to his secondary pitches, he said.
“In the grand scheme of things, being invited to those showcase events, they’ve liked what they’ve seen,” Priester said. “I didn’t want to change too much of what made me, me.”
Priester is one of the top prep pitchers in this year’s draft class. He’s projected to go in the early rounds and even could slide into the first round of the draft.
“The process has been really, really fun,” said Priester, a Texas Christian University commit. “It’s a great opportunity for anyone. I’m just trying to take it step by step.”
Priester has dominated high school competition over the last three years. This spring, he has a 1.04 ERA with 54 strikeouts and six walks allowed in 33 2/3 innings for Cary-Grove High School in Cary, Illinois.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound hurler has a four-pitch mix. His top offering is his four-seam fastball, which sits 91-93 mph and tops out at 96. He uses it to attack the strike zone. He locates the pitch well and isn’t afraid to attack hitters on the inside part of the plate.
He also throws a two-seamer that has heavy sinking action and generates swings and misses.
“At times it’s inconsistent in the strike zone,” Priester said. “I need to get a better feel for it moving forward.”
His put away pitch is his 12-6 curveball, which he throws in the high-70s to low-80s. Besides using it to strike hitters out, he also can locate it for strikes. The pitch has solid depth and has improved since last summer.
Priester’s changeup is a developing pitch. He dedicated significant time in the offseason to gaining a better feel for the pitch by using it while long tossing and throwing bullpen sessions. But his confidence in the pitch hasn’t always carried over into games this spring, he said.
“It’s a pitch that feels really good off the field, but I need to be able to relax and throw it better for strikes on the field,” Priester said. “That’s something I really need to hone in on. I usually tense up when I throw it in games. I just need to take a deep breath and treat it like a bullpen.”
Although Priester likely will have an attractive option to embark on a professional career straight out of high school this summer, he could elect to attend TCU for three years before becoming draft-eligible again.
He committed to TCU in April 2016 after deciding between the Horned Frogs, Michigan and Indiana, he said.
Besides the strong academics and his fondness for the campus, the relationships he developed with the coaching staff stood out to him.
He raved about his relationship with pitching coach Kirk Saarloos, who pitched seven years in the major leagues. Saarloos was a third-round pick out of California State University, Fullerton in 2001.
Priester has two strong options in front of him and is trying not to worry about the difficult decision he will have to make with deciding between the two in June.
“I feel like with anyone, you catch yourself day dreaming a bit on the decision to come,” Priester said. “My parents have done a really good job of keeping me in the now and the present, rather than jumping into conclusions down the road.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for four years. He’s interviewed 133 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.