Born: September 15, 2000
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 1st Round, 18th Overall, 2019
How Acquired: Draft
High School: Cary-Grove (IL) HS
Agent: N/A

Priester was the first Illinois prep pitcher taken in the first round since 2010.  Despite being from a northern state, he’s highly regarded, ranking 19th among draft prospects at MLB Pipeline and 23rd at Baseball America.  He features a smooth delivery from a three-quarters angle that produces a four-seamer that can get to 97 mph.  His low-90s two-seamer, though, may be a better pitch as it has a lot of movement.  His curve is outstanding.  Priester so far lacks a good change and has compensated by adding a cutter, which shows promise.  Like a lot of prep pitchers, he hasn’t needed a change much, so that will be a project for him.  Priester is an excellent athlete who was also a football star.  He hasn’t had much coaching to this point; between that and the athleticism, he may have even more upside than is apparent from his stuff.  He had a commitment to Texas Christian, but he signed a week after the draft and will head to the Gulf Coast League.  His bonus was $81,300 below the slot amount.

R:  1-1-0, 3.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 32.2 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 10.2 K/9
A-:  0-0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 4.0 IP, 9.0 BB/9, 4.0 K/9

Priester had a good debut in the GCL, showing an ability to get swings and misses.  He also made a start at the end of the season for West Virginia.  One issue he did have was left-handed hitters; they had a .909 OPS against him, while right-handed hitters managed just .462.  That may show a need to work on a change.


The Pirates brought Priester to their alternate training site near the end of the season, which is a sign of how highly they regard him.  He was also in fall instructionals and was reaching the upper-90s with his fastball.

A+:  7-4-0, 3.04 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 97.2 IP, 3.6 BB/9, 9.0 K/9

Priester made 20 starts for Greensboro and improved over the course of the season.  Early on, he wasn’t missing a lot of bats and had some trouble with walks.  Around mid-season he picked things up and had a number of dominant outings, including his playoff start, which came against a very heavy-hitting team.  The Greensboro ballpark caused Priester some problems:  He allowed six home runs and a .718 OPS at home, two and .544 on the road.  He had no real platoon split.  He seemed to tire a bit in September, but bounced back with the big playoff start.  He was named the league’s top pitcher.

A:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 3.0 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 3.0 K/9
A+:  0-0-0, 16.88 ERA, 2.63 WHIP, 2.2 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
AA:  4-4-0, 2.87 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 75.1 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
AAA:  1-1-0, 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.1 IP, 6.8 BB/9, 9.6 K/9

An oblique injury put Priester on the injured list at the start of the season.  After a couple of rehab outings, he joined Altoona in late June and was still able to work 90 innings on the season, which is a plus.  He made a strong showing there, more so than the final numbers look.  Like Mike Burrows, Priester had a meltdown in his final start in AA before moving up to Indianapolis; he gave up seven earned runs in three and two-thirds innings.  Going into that game, his ERA in AA was 2.15.  He started two games in AAA, throwing five shutout innings in one and struggling in the other.

Priester remains the Pirates’ top pitching prospect.  He’s suffered some from over-reaction in the scouting reports.  A lot of folks got carried away with the velocity he showed in the alternate camp in 2020, then were overly disappointed when he didn’t sit at quite that velocity in 2021.  There are some observers who have reservations about the “shape” of his fastball, which probably makes more sense, but for everybody he possesses at least a mid-rotation ceiling.  He won’t be eligible for the Rule 5 draft until after the 2023 season, which will give the Pirates a convenient excuse not to call him up regardless of what he does in AAA in 2023.

2023: Minor league contract
Signing Bonus: $3,400,000
MiLB Debut: 2019
MLB Debut:
MiLB FA Eligible: 2025
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2023
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
June 3, 2019: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1st round, 18th overall pick; signed on June 10.