Pirates Prospects Daily: Best Breaking Pitches In The Pittsburgh Pirates System

A good breaking ball can leave even the best of hitters looking silly, and be one of the key pitches that help pitchers rack up the strikeouts.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have plenty of prospects that can really spin a good breaking ball, striking out their fair share of batters in the process.

Below is a look at the best breaking pitches in the Pirates system. If you missed it yesterday, I looked at the best fastballs in the system.

Po-Yu Chen Curveball

Speaking of spinning a breaking ball, there are few in the system who posted the spin rate that Chen did last year with his curve. The 21-year-old righty averages around 2700 rpm on his curveball, and was no stranger to touching 3000. 

That’d be good enough to be one of the best curves in the majors when it comes to spin rate.

That helped him get some of the best break on the pitch in the system, and allowed Chen to strike out 103 batters in 98.1 innings pitched. 

Chen’s has a wide array of pitches he can sling, which includes a slider, cutter, and splitter. All of those pitches are worth mentioning, but the curveball stands out when it comes to the breaking balls.

Colin Selby Slider

Colin Selby could end up being one of the system’s best kept secrets. Although, after an impressive showing at the Arizona Fall League, and being added to the 40-man roster, the cat may be mostly out the bag.

Not only does Selby have an upper-90s fastball, but his slider is another potentially deadly pitch. In the limited data available from the AFL, the slider averaged 2500 rpm and generated an insane 70% whiff rate.

Quinn Priester Curveball

The top pitching prospects in the Pirates system also has one of the best curveballs in all of the minors.

Priester’s curveball has been long hyped as one of the best breaking pitches, and he continued to show why over the course of the 2022 season, striking out 89 batters in 90.1 innings pitched.

In two starts that was tracked by Statcast in the AFL, his curveball averaged right at 2500 rpm and over 50-inches of vertical break.

Mike Burrows Curveball

Perhaps no pitcher came out the gate to start the season better than Burrows, who perfectly executed the elevated fastball/curveball pairing. He even flashed in a changeup, something he didn’t show too much of the prior season.

A late season injury likely kept him from getting a Roansy Contreras-style late season callup. Even with the injury, Burrows managed to strike out 111 batters in 94.1 innings pitched.

Highlight of the Day

Pirates Prospects Daily

By Tim Williams

**Sammy Siani had a strong weekend in Australia, and John Dreker recaps everything in the latest Pirates winter league update.

**Missed yesterday? Anthony broke down the best fastballs in the Pirates system.

Song of the Day

Pirates Prospects Weekly

I’ve been low-key building a vacation for myself in the aggregate over the last few weeks. First Pitch was normally on the schedule for Monday, but I’m going for ultimate quality over timeliness for this one. The delay adds a bit of a meta effect, which might make you think this was all intentionally done.

It’s not. 2022 was a rough year for me, personally. There were good things that happened to me. But I dealt with a lot of loss, and the risk of future loss always seeming like it was around the corner. It’s difficult to navigate your progress through life when you’ve had a mostly shitty year.

Ultimately, I think one of the important keys to being an adult — a real adult, and not an Adult In Name Only — is accepting that some years in life will contain greater than 50% shitty things happening and trying your best to focus on the percentage of good things that always exist.

All we can ever do in life is focus on the progress we made from our past actions, while focusing on how to better navigate the shit in the future — trusting that this simple approach will lead to more years that are greater than 50% on the good things happening.

That makes it a lot easier to be present.

Tomorrow’s First Pitch will be about what you can expect from this site in 2023.

A year ago, I was trying to explain the concept of article drops and the future expansion to Pirates Prospects Daily. We’ve added so much to the site since then, and tomorrow’s article will make it very clear where this is heading next. The article will also featuring the special creative writing touch that is home to First Pitch.

We will also have our article drop later in the day, with several Pirates updates, if you’re still interested in that type of thing in 2023.

I figure I’ll be back on my normal schedule by the end of this week, and thus, the site will be back on it’s production schedule.

Until then, because I’ve been existing outside of time…

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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A bit off topic but I see that the Tigers just traded Madris for cash to the Astros. He has gone from us to the Rays to the Tigers to the Astros since September


Has Bryse Wilson cleared?

Wilbur Miller

I think they have until 1/7 to do something. I’m guessing they’ll get some random low level lottery type, or maybe an upper level depth guy.

Last edited 24 days ago by Wilbur Miller

Thanks sir! Could not remember if it was 7 or 10 days to do something.


Not sure but I think they had till tomorrow to trade or put on waivers. Still in limbo I think.

Wilbur Miller

Usually gets resolved much sooner. The time for waiver claims is, what, five days? That’s one reason I’m guessing they’re trying to do a deal for some minor return. Wilson’s lack of options probably doesn’t help.


Never appreciated that Chen had such a yakker.

You don’t see many big loopy benders anymore but his comes with an awful lot of bite.


Solometo, Chen, Jimenez and Chandler is a group I’m excited to follow, unfortunately they all will pitch in Greensboro this year, but as group this might as good as any.


The only way Chandler moves up is if they scrap the two-way thing. He got eaten alive by Low A pitching. You think they are gonna send him to High A if they plan on continuing letting him DH too?

Last edited 24 days ago by pittsburghbob69

I agree and wrote something similar on another tread!


He’s not a professional hitter


Kind of surprising that BA did not pick Solometo as one of the Top 10 Pirate Prospects after he posted a 5-1, 2.64 ERA in almost 50 IP at A ball as a 19 year old with a 9+/3+ K/BB/9. I realize Harrington, the BA No. 10, is a highly rated pitcher, but with no innings pitched, I would have given that slot to the kid who earned it.

Anthony – great stuff, thank you for the effort and presentation.

Wilbur Miller

I can’t figure Chen out. The stuff seems good enough and his command is good for his experience level, at least when I’ve seen him. But he has a lot of games where he just gets banged around a lot.


Lack deception?

Wilbur Miller

Maybe. I don’t have the sophistication to judge that. And I mostly just saw the good games. Same thing happened with Hung-Leng Chang in the FCL. When I’d see him he’d blow everyone away. Next game he’d get torched.
There’s a reason it’s hard to trade for prospects. The other team sees it all. Your scouts just can’t.

Last edited 24 days ago by Wilbur Miller

But, he damn sure has the pitch selection and better control than most young kids. A helluva lot to send to the next level where we hope he develops further and starts to be more selective and locate better.

What kind of Catching are these young pitchers working with? Maybe some of these young kids need a “Crash” Davis type to set the guide rails?

Wilbur Miller

Hendrie is a very good C.

b mcferren

Brubaker heading to the Twins for Krilloff says sources


Minnesota is so deep in SP’s. Both in MLB and in AAA that are MLB ready or close to it.

They have their five(5) SP’s for their MLB rotation on their 26 man roster. Plus nine(9) more SP’s on their 40 man roster in AAA. Ten(10) counting C.Paddock on the DL.

That’s 15 SP’s on their 40 man roster. Pirates have ten(10) if you are counting Zach Thompson Vince Velasquez and Max Kranick as SP’s.

Me personally, I would like to see both Velasquez and Thompson out of the bullpen.

My rotation would be:

My bullpen:
Robert Stephenson YerryDeLosSantos
Jarlin Garcia(lefty)
Jose Hernandez(lefty)
Vince Velasquez
Zach Thompson

(ColinSelby, DauriMoreta, YohanRamirez on the 40 man).

Trade Will Crowe, Duane Underwood Jr and Chase DeJong.

Last edited 24 days ago by pittsburghbob69


Wilbur Miller



b mcferren

south side sammy


Anybody else want to play the game of comparing these guys breaking balls to famous ones from the past?

I’ll start. QP’s hammer curve reminds me of former Pirate World Series champion and Hall of Famer, Bert Blyleven’s yacker.

Certainly not saying QP is a future HOFer, but it’s going to be fun watching him make the best hitters in the world look foolish when he breaks off his best Uncle Charlie.


Preister CB isn’t close to BB’s.


You’re probably right. Blyleven had quite possibly the best curve MLB has ever seen. The 12-6 movement is similar, but the break isn’t close to as sharp as BB’s was.


When Rich Hill is on, he’ll get knees to buckle. Glasnow also has one of those, but it helps when your fb is upper 90’s to triple digits.


Priester’s reminds me of Mussina. That straight over the top 12-to-6 action. Selby’s “slider” is weird because it has almost a straight down action like a splitter.


Good observation on Selby and I like the Mussina comp, too.


Burrows curve is the best of this bunch, Priester’s is loopy and easy to recognize, Chen is better, but Burrows tunnels his better than anyone.


Priester’s curve is ascetically pleasing but hittable.

Last edited 24 days ago by Catch_22

Hittable but I think with a lot of weak contact, at least when I’ve watched. In the one Altoona game (at Bowie) that I saw in person, I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t getting more swings-and-misses (only 4 K’s in 6.1 IP; I didn’t track actual swings-and-misses) while also being somewhat encouraged by the number of weakly hit grounders (11-3 GO-FO ratio).


I sat right behind the plate for 2 of his starts in Altoona. he doesn’t generate much swing and miss. Hitter can see the curve coming and he doesn’t command it all that well.


I worry a little about Burrows’ arm action and as it would seem to put more stress on the elbow than does Priester’s. Obviously, I’m just a fan on the internet, but am curious if others see the same thing when watching the clips. Perhaps it would be helpful to have comps for each, based on arm action.


Priester reminds me a lot of Keller, who always had similarities to Cole in my eye.



Burrows overhauled his arm action along a similar timeline, in a similar manner, and for similar reasons as Joey Musgrove:



We need to have Nicky the K spend several weeks practicing batting against these 4 pitchers?


Selby’s slider is nasty. Looks like it would pair well with a 4 seam or 2 seam.

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