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What’s Eating Cal Quantrill?

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The 2016 8th-overall Padres RHP has seen a slide in his prospect stock.

MLB: All Star Game-Futures Game Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The vaunted San Diego Padres prospect list underwent the requisite revisions over the All Star Game break, with the many channels who cover the minors and prospects updating their rankings using the data culled from half a season. The addition of Francisco Mejia considerably bolstered the Padres farm system rankings and many outlets claim the team owns the most exemplary farm in the Majors. Some have even postulated the amount of talent to be in line with teams before their World Series victories.

Featured down on the Padres farm are veritable riches of pitching prospects vying to crack the big league roster in the coming seasons. It’s hard to ignore the video game numbers Chris Paddack has posted in his return from Tommy John and subsequent mid-season promotion to AA San Antonio. Adrian Morejon has flashed more velocity and a variety of pitches that have pushed him into consideration for top lefty arm in the system next to...MacKenzie Gore, developing in Single A Fort Wayne and earning plaudits for his work ethic while facing his first test in professional baseball. The only lefty pitcher on the entire San Antonio roster (seriously) is Logan Allen, and he’s leading the entire Texas League in strikeouts. Of course you also have Jacob Nix, Michel Baez, the return of Anderson Espinoza to throwing activities...

Being lost in the shuffle among all those names is one Cal Quantrill, Padres 2016 first round draft pick, 8th overall selection. The Stanford product has spent the 2018 season in AA San Antonio and has struggled while his fellow Padres draftees in Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi have already made it to the big league roster. What’s causing Quantrill’s shine to dim?

Marcus Pond of Madfriars was kind enough to offer his insight into what’s causing Quantrill’s stock to slide.

The Stats

Simply put, this year’s stock of arms has simply put up stronger numbers in their respective leagues than Cal has.

Via Marcus:

Since Quantrill was signed, there have been a few guys like Michel Báez, Adrian Morejon, and MacKenzie Gore that have displaced him. Those, along with the surging Chris Paddack and Jacob Nix, as well as hurlers from the later rounds of 2016 (Eric Lauer & Joey Lucchesi) have a) pushed him down the list, and b) soured some of the impatient fanbase and scouts alike.

Here’s Quantrill’s 2018 statline so far:

  • 5.21 ERA, 20 G, 20 GS, 107 IP, 93 SO, 37 BB, 1.50 WHIP

The line itself doesn’t look great. A 1.50 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) rates as poor per Fangraphs though he’s more on the hits allowed side than walks (7.7% BB%, which rates as average). Digging deeper into the advanced stats shows a 4.30 FIP, which is a touch better than his ERA indicates but is still decidedly average.

To compare, here are the statlines for three of his teammates. Maybe you’ll recognize them if you do your own stat reading:

  • 2.66 ERA, 17 G, 16 GS, 105 IP, 113 SO, 34 BB, 1.02 WHIP
  • 1.79 ERA, 8 G, 8 GS, 45.1 IP, 33 SO, 9 BB, 0.90 WHIP
  • 2.08 ERA, 13 G, 13 GS, 69.1 IP, 95 SO, 7 BB 0.79 WHIP

The stats themselves say a lot about the talent present in the Padres system just at the AA level. Though Cal leads the team in innings pitched and games started, the first teammate statline almost equal in IP belongs to Logan Allen and he’s already gaining consideration for a big league call-up. The second line belongs to oft-injured Jacob Nix, who when not shelved with various ailments has been very successful. The third is a bit of a cheat but that insane strikeout number should feel familiar: that’s Chris Paddack’s cumulative 2018.

Recovery From Tommy John Surgery

Friarwire

Marcus had the opportunity to speak to Cal at the beginning of last season and asked the righty if he was close to being 100% recovered from the Tommy John surgery Quantrill underwent in college. Cal indicated that he wasn’t and that he is still working to regain command, and it’s apparent that the righty may still be working this year to build consistency in his appearances.

Cal Quantrill on his approach via an interview with Marcus:

“We’re trying to take the route that’s going to lead to long-term success and success at the big leagues, and that means doing some things that I’m uncomfortable with – throwing the breaking ball in counts where I wouldn’t normally throw the breaking ball. Attacking hitters inside when I could just easily go outside. Little things, which long term, if I’m able to master that or become better at it, I think it will lead to better results at each of the following levels. But at times, I’m getting beat right now.”

Recovery from any sort of surgery varies greatly depending on the person. Though there is an example of a pitcher coming back tremendously from TJ in the Padres system (Chris Paddack) and one yet to be determined (Anderson Espinoza) it’s difficult to gauge the length of turnaround a player will experience after going under the knife. Anecdotally it’s said that pitch command is one of the last things to reappear for a pitcher who has undergone TJ surgery.

Quantrill is on track this season to pitch the most innings of his professional career in any given season. His consistency has been probably the biggest challenge of the season: after a decent June that saw Cal post a 3.64 ERA with a couple 7 inning outings and 1 home run given up his July (so far) has been an unmitigated disaster with a 9.31 ERA and 6 (!) home runs surrendered.

Keep The Faith in Cal

Not all is lost for Paul Quantrill’s son: Baseball America noted in their top 10 midseason Padres list that Cal sits at 90-95 mph with his fastball and that the slider has developed enough to become a strikeout pitch despite some regression in the once-vaunted changeup and the aforementioned fastball control. The 23-year-old still appears on many top prospect lists and would easily slot towards the top of other team’s lists; another testament to how deep the Padres system is. Fangraphs still ranks Quantrill as high as 3rd on their midseason list, citing an good ground ball rate (43.4%) and intelligence to go with his four pitch mix. Cal also owns a 10-strikeout performance this season and by all accounts has the aforementioned mental makeup to succeed even if he’s currently experiencing hardships at the AA level. In just a short group interview with Cal way back in 2016 this writer found him affable and capable of becoming a fan favorite in time.

It’s far too soon to write off any prospects, let alone one with a pedigree as strong as Quantrill’s was when he was drafted. One can suspect the righty is far from giving up and will continue to get plenty of opportunities to develop and flourish as part of the “eruption” of talent the Padres currently have brewing in the minors.

My thanks once again to Marcus Pond of Madfriars for his time and input!