The Yankees are reportedly interested in Chicago White Sox starter Jose Quintana, one of the game’s more underrated and consistent starters over the last five years. Since 2013, Quintana has thrown at least 200 innings every year, with an ERA under 3.51. He is under team control through 2018 with two option years, so it is easy to see why the Yankees are interested in their former farmhand.
One of the things that stands out about Quintana is that nothing seems to stand out about him. He throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball that both sit in the low 90’s, also mixing in a curve and changeup. His curveball has been deadly at times, but was hit pretty hard in 2016. His changeup has traditionally been slightly below average. For his career, he has 7.39 K/9, which isn’t exactly what comes to mind when it comes to front of the rotation starters.
He is also listed at 6’0”, shorter than the height of a prototypical ace. Without traditional ace-caliber velocity and/or stuff, Quintana has to focus on what he can control. He gets a first pitch strike roughly 66% of the time, compared to the league average of 60-61%. In total, his percentage of pitches thrown in the strike zone is roughly league average. He also shows the ability to move his fastball around the plate, something that allows him to set his other pitches up well.
The Yankees’ reluctance to part with top prospects will probably prevent them from acquiring Quintana. But the Yankees might have their own version of Quintana in the minors. With the recent influx of prospects and two injury-riddled seasons, 2013 first round pick Ian Clarkin has fallen by the wayside in terms of publicity and hype. But the 21-year-old southpaw has always had an advanced feel for pitching and managed to log 98 innings at High-A Tampa before undergoing knee surgery, pitching to a 3.31 ERA.
After pitching well at Low-A Charleston in 2014, Clarkin missed most of the 2015 season with elbow inflammation. According to his MLB.com scouting report, he still has the low-90’s fastball he showcased out of high school. However, his once-touted curveball has not been up to par, while his changeup appears to be a viable secondary offering. He also managed to keep his walk rate under three BB/9, which is always a good sign.
Clarkin will not light up the radar gun and might never develop a wipeout breaking ball. But if he can add polish as he gets older, he could still reach his ceiling as a middle to front of the rotation starter. If he could break into Double-A Trenton in his age-22 season, he would still be ahead of most pitching prospects who are taken out of college, giving him plenty of time to develop.
Jose Quintana has shown that pitchers do not necessarily need elite velo, height, or electric stuff to be effective starters. Being average or slightly above average in all three categories is more than enough, especially when coupled with a deceptive lefty release point. If Clarkin can stay healthy, there is no reason why he cannot become a Quintana-like pitcher, doing just enough to be a successful starter in the big leagues.
Data is courtesy of FanGraphs.