Pirates draft high school pitcher Quinn Priester in 1st round
The first words out of Quinn Priester’s mouth Monday night when he talked with reporters on a conference call was an apology.
“I’m a little hoarse,” he said not long after the Pittsburgh Pirates made the 18-year-old right-handed pitcher a first-round pick (18th overall) in the MLB Draft.
He admitted to a little bit of a sinus infection, but the real reason for the hoarseness was more likely a lot of celebrating on the biggest night of his life.
“Talking and being excited with my family and friends is something that caused my hoarseness,” he said. “It’s no better feeling.”
Also, he said he didn’t get much sleep Sunday night, thinking about what his future holds. But a nice breakfast Monday morning of bacon, French toast and a smoothie — fixed by his father — helped.
The Pirates drafted a pitcher in the first round for the second time in the past six years. The other was Shane Baz, drafted No. 12 overall in 2017. Baz is no longer with the team, going to the Tampa Bay Rays last year in the Chris Archer trade.
Like Baz, Priester, 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, was drafted out of high school. He attended Cary-Grove (Ill.) and is verbally committed to TCU. Priester was the seventh high school player and fourth pitcher taken Monday among the first 18 selections.
“We believe Quinn is a good athlete consistently reaching solid to above-average stuff and the aptitude, arm action, athleticism and delivery to add,” Pirates director of amateur scouting Joe DelliCarri said. “We are confident that we are adding not only a quality pitcher but also a quality young man who will add to our culture.”
Priester admitted he has to work on his changeup, but he has shown ability to throw four-seam (90-94 mph) and two-seam fastballs (90-92 mph). He also has a curveball some major league scouts believe might be his best pitch (mid-70s mph), according to a report on dodgersdigest.com.
“Scouts love Priester’s athleticism and the ease of his arm action,” MLB Pipeline’s scouting report said. “His four-seam fastball can reach 97 mph with riding life, though his heavy two-seamer in the low 90s may be even more effective because it gets exceptional horizontal and vertical movement.
“He also owns one of the better curveballs in the 2019 prep class, sitting around 80 mph with tight spin and good depth.”
MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds said he likes the fact Priester is a two-sport athlete, calling him “an elite wide receiver” in high school. Priester also played defensive back on Cary-Grove’s 14-0 Class 6A state championship team last year.
Before Priester committed to TCU, Northwestern was talking to him about playing both sports in college, he said.
“An athlete is a guy who is going to be able to bounce off the mound and make adjustments with his delivery,” Reynolds said.
Asked why Priester lasted through 17 picks, MLB Network analyst Jim Callis said, “Teams get scared of high school right-handers, and they don’t always go as high as they necessarily should.”
Other than Baz, the Pirates have drafted one other high school right-hander this decade — Jameson Taillon at No. 2 overall in 2010.
Callis compared Priester to the San Francisco Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, who became a major league pitcher after playing wide receiver at Notre Dame.
“But he’s a little bit smaller version,” Callis said. “You hear that one a lot. But he is so much more polished as a pitcher at the same age.”
Priester recorded a 6-2 record this season at Cary-Grove, with a 1.04 ERA, 73 strikeouts, 11 walks and 25 hits allowed in 46 2/3 innings. He was named the Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year and a 2019 Rawlings Perfect Game Pre-Season All-American.
Priester was the first of four picks the Pirates had among 78 prospects drafted Monday night.
• In the competitive balance round (pick No. 37), the Pirates selected Sammy Siani, a left-handed hitting/throwing center fielder from William Penn Charter School, an independent institution in Philadelphia. Siani, 18, is a Duke commit and the brother of Reds minor-league center fielder Michael Siani
Siani, 6-0, 175, hit .457 this season. In 32 games, he had eight doubles, nine triples, six home runs, 25 RBIs and 16 stolen bases for the Quakers.
“He probably has the quickest hands I have ever seen at the high school level,” Penn Charter coach Justin Hanley told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “and a really good eye for the strike zone.”
Added Duke coach Chris Pollard: “Sam Siani is without question one of the best players in all of the country in the 2019 class. He has a tremendous hit tool from the left side and he’s a very good runner. A true center fielder, Sam goes and gets the ball from gap to gap. Coming from a great baseball family, he has a great motor and plays the game very hard.”
• In the second round (pick No. 57), the Pirates took a college center fielder, Indiana’s Matt Gorski, 21.
Gorski, 6-4, 198, improved his power numbers from 2018, hitting 12 home runs this season after belting eight. He also led the Hoosiers (37-23, 17-7) with 18 stolen bases this season and was a second-team All-Big Ten selection, hitting .271, with 12 homers and 46 RBIs. A year ago, he hit .356 and was first-team All-Big Ten, with eight home runs and 40 RBIs.
• In the second competitive balance round (pick No. 72), the Pirates took University of Houston third baseman Jared Triolo, 21, who hit a team-high .332 with seven homers and 44 RBIs this year. He’s a career .317 hitter in three seasons with the Cougars (32-24, 12-12 AAC).
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .