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Chicago White Sox Roster Preview: Starting Rotation

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Jose Quintana (Mr. Underrated)

Aug 19, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana (62) throws a pitch against against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s the most underrated pitcher in baseball? Jose Quintana, no decision.

The tough-luck lefty has sparkled his last two seasons as a starter, as Quintana truly is a diamond in the rough.

The White Sox signed the lefty when he was a minor league free agent, and almost no one envisioned Quintana developing into what he is now. Certainly not the Yankees, who could really use a little more Quintana in their current rotation.

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The truth is that if Quintana were in fact a Yankee, a lot more people would know his name. The lefty is grossly underrated, and a lot of it has to do with his win-loss record.

At face value, a 9-11 record in 2014 doesn’t look pretty and certainly not the product of a frontline starter, but when you dig into the numbers you find that Quintana has produced an MLB leading 39 no-decisions since 2012.

Quintana’s biggest improvement in ’14 was his ability to generate whiffs, as he racked up 178 strikeouts, and posted an 8.0 SO/9 ratio. Quintana’s evolution into more of a strike out pitcher makes him profile even greater as a frontline guy.

The only real knock on the Colombian hurler is that he doesn’t go as deep into games as one might expect from a top rotation guy. Despite this, he’s still logged over 200 innings in each of his last two seasons and has arguably been the White Sox’s most durable starter.

According to written by Alex Dopp, in a piece in the Daily Gammons, and posted midway through last season, pontificates that Quintana’s hot stretch last year was fueled by a more effective curveball that manufactured a lot more strikeouts.

It’s true that Quintana has refined his arsenal since coming to the South Side, and he now sports a plus-fastball, the aforementioned curveball, as well as a change-up. Those three weapons seem to get the job done.

So when we’re talking about previewing the No. 3 pitcher in the rotation, I’m only writing about him third because he’s there by default.

Slotting Quintana third splits of the gives the Sox a R/L combo at the top. Quintana has the stuff to be a legit number two on almost any other staff.

According to Anthony Castrovince of SportsOnEarth, he seems to agree, citing the lefty as the most underrated pitcher in baseball:

"“In fact, Quintana’s WAR mark over his three-year career to date is 10.7, per FanGraphs. You know who falls just below him in that span? Madison Bumgarner, at 10.0 … He’s just a no-nonsense kid with a smooth delivery and improving home run and strikeout rates. His career ballpark-adjusted ERA+ is 17 points above league average, and he’s delivered 200 innings in consecutive seasons now… So when you talk about that two-headed monster atop the Sox rotation, don’t forget about the third head, OK?”"

This third head Castrovince is talking about is so underrated that I actually want to make Quintana overrated for a second. I want to say that Quintana can be one the American League’s Top 10 pitchers in 2015.

Aug 13, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana (62) pitches the ball against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

 His FIP, which values what a pitcher himself can control, was an MLB 10th-best 2.81, showing that Quintana is lined up for significant ERA improvement in ’15. Not that his 3.32 mark was poor, but he has a shot at a sub 3.00 ERA going into this season.

Consider this, Quintana posted 5.0 WAR in ’14 per Fangraphs. For comparison, Chris Sale and Jose Abreu posted 5.1 and 5.2 marks respectively. Two of those three are superstars, and one might not even ring a bell with the casual fan.

Sure, it’s not all about advanced metrics. Quintana still needs to pass the eye test to be considered one of the league’s best pitchers, but with higher strikeout rates in ’15 and sustainment of MLB’s 2nd HR/FB percentage he can do just that.

Best Case: 

Quintana errs on the side of his ’14 FIP and posts a sub 3.00 ERA, along with a winning record. He becomes one of the premier pitchers in the American League, earns an All-Star bid, and gets national coverage and recognition during the playoffs.

Worst Case:

Quintana’s sophomore slump actually arrives his junior year as his HR/FB ratio spikes above even career norms, his curveball loses effectiveness, and his change-up is pummeled.

His ERA comes in at around 4.50, and the White Sox are forced to overpay Samardzija to ensure that they’ll have someone of relevance beyond Sale, because Quintana’s future looks like a back end starter now.

My Prediction: 15-6 record/ 2.98 ERA/ 202 K (All-Star)

Next: John Danks: The innings eater?

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