Not The Weekly Mailbag: A Trade Proposal
Photo Courtesy of Cal Quantrill’s Twitter Profile
As many of you know, we will be running the Weekly Mailbag on an as-needed basis as long as baseball is on hiatus. By all means, please keep sending your questions and topic ideas to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In weeks that there are enough questions, I’ll run a standard mailbag. In weeks without enough questions, I’ll either turn one of your questions into a full post (with attribution, of course), or I’ll post an article based on a mailbag-type entry.
For this week’s “Not The Weekly Mailbag,” we’re going to discuss a trade proposal.
As Spring Training hurtled along in 2020, we saw that the Yankees pitching depth, while far better than the 2019 season, left something to be desired in the event that more than one starting pitcher went on the shelf. Sure, the Yankees have multiple prospects down on the farm that have the upside of rotation stalwarts, but the reality is that most of those guys are either a year away from being able to contribute to a Major League rotation full-time (Schmidt, Garcia, and Yajure) or come with significant concerns about their ability to start long-term (Garcia, Nelson, Medina, Gil, etc.). Additionally, now that we know for certain what the rules look like for service time, we know that both Tanaka and Paxton will become Free Agents at the end of the year, unless the Yankees give them contract extensions. Given what we know about Tanaka’s and Paxton’s injury histories, I find it unlikely that the Yankees will work out extensions with either before they get a feel for what the market will bear for them. In light of the possibility of losing two starting pitchers in Free Agency, the loss of Sevy for this season and part of next (at least), and the possibility of further injuries occurring this year, the Yankees could certainly use further depth in the starting rotation this year and next.
With that in mind, I started thinking about a former top prospect who has fallen out of favor somewhat over in San Diego: Cal Quantrill. Son of Paul Quantrill, a longtime MLB pitcher, Cal was actually originally drafted out of high school by the Yankees in the 26th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, but wisely chose to go Stanford where his prospect stock blossomed. Despite Tommy John Surgery in his Sophomore year (2015), Quantrill was drafted 8th overall by the Padres in 2016. Multiple publicly available scouting reports noted Quantrill’s plus fastball velocity and command, while crediting him with the potential for 4 average or better pitches.
Quantrill’s prospect status has taken a hit since his draft day, as his stuff and velocity have backed up some since Tommy John Surgery. His performance in the minor leagues has been underwhelming to-date, although he has pitched primarily in notoriously hitter-friendly environments. Prior to 2019, we really only had second-hand scouting reports to evaluate Quantrill, but after posting 103 sub-par innings in the Majors in 2019, we finally have some data to look at.
On the surface, Quantrill’s 5.16 ERA/82 ERA+ was unsightly, but while he was not a strikeout machine by any means (7.8 K/9), his strikeout-to-walk ratio was more than playable at 3.18. I am far more intrigued by his numbers if we dig even a little deeper. Check out his average velocity readings last season, courtesy of Baseball Savant:
Cal Quantrill Average Velocity, Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)
Quantrill had well above-average velocity with his fastball and sinker, and showed good velocity separation between his change-up, widely considered his best secondary offering, and breaking balls. Most importantly for someone with a history of arm injuries, Quantrill held his velocity throughout the season, so I think that we can reasonably assume that his arm is healthy at the moment.
Despite solid velocity, Quantrill’s spin rates leave something to be desired. Take a look:
Cal Quantrill Average Spin Rate, Courtesy of Baseball Savant (Click to Enlarge)
Quantrill does not have a high spin-rate on his fastball, hence why he utilized the sinker over the four-seamer as the season wore on. In fact, Quantrill’s four-seam fastball spin was in just the 14th percentile when compared to the rest of the league, according to Statcast. Sadly, the spin rate on his breaking balls was equally poor on average. This helps explain why Quantrill’s strikeout rate was middling, despite the fact that his velocity was so good.
However, I think the same statistics show a glimmer of hope. Even when Quantrill was universally praised as a prospect, talent evaluators noted the inconsistent movement and spin on his curveball and slider. In fact, it has become increasingly rare for a pitcher to have both pitches in his typical repertoire specifically because it is difficult to become proficient and consistent with either when both are thrown consistently. For the time being, Quantrill has used his slider as his primary breaking ball, however the pitch was shelled last year in the Majors, with hitters batting .273 against the pitch while slugging .434. The pitch showed consistent spin and shape the whole season; it just wasn’t very good.
His curveball, on the other hand, was wildly inconsistent in a small sample size (just 69 pitches in total), but the pitch spiked up to nearly 2600 RPM early in the year, a number that would make the pitch perfectly viable. A viable breaking ball is what separates Quantrill from a quad-A starter and a rotation stalwart.
Interestingly, the Yankees development team has proven adept at helping pitchers add both spin and velocity. Anecdotally, we saw it happen with Jordan Montgomery coming into 2020. I think a pitcher with Quantrill’s pedigree would be incredibly interesting in pinstripes.
From the Padres’ perspective, they have multiple impact pitchers nearly ready for the Majors, so a pitcher like Quantrill is expendable if it fills a need. Looking at their roster, the Padres lack viable outfielders either in the Majors or waiting in the wings in AAA. While I don’t think this would be the entire deal, could a deal centered around a Clint Frazier work? Frazier is seemingly blocked in NY, and has a prospect pedigree at least equal to Quantrill. We have also seen flashes that Frazier can be an MLB regular, though one that is limited by defense and plate discipline. The more I think about it, the more I think that the Yankees and Padres match-up nicely, and I think a Quantrill-for-Frazier swap might be worth exploring.