As nature intended, Clayton Kershaw fanned 11 hitters over six scoreless frames Thursday against Texas. But I’m guessing you’ve already read enough Kershaw articles for one lifetime (I know I’ve written enough), so let’s talk about somebody else for a change.
First, a little backstory. The White Sox, fed up with their throwback-jersey-cutting superstar of a pitcher, traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox this winter for a treasure trove of prospects including Twinkie-enthusiast Yoan Moncada and lightning-armed Michael Kopech. If those prospect seeds grow the way they’re supposed to, the trade should look pretty good for Chicago in a few years.
The prospects-for-superstar trade formula usually embodies two distinct baseball stereotypes: a win-now team gunning for a title and a rebuilding one looking to bottom out. The Red Sox certainly fit the “title-or-bust” profile but I wouldn’t say the White Sox are bottoming out. One reason the White Sox felt they could afford to lose Sale was because they knew they had an ace who could fill his shoes. His name is Jose Quintana and he’s about to take MLB by storm.
The fantasy community has already caught on to Quintana—his consensus ADP on FantasyPros is a respectable 96th (though it should be higher). But the general public is way behind. Quintana has quietly been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball over the last half decade. CSN Chicago displayed a great graphic during Thursday’s spring training game. It showed the five pitchers in MLB who have thrown at least 200 innings with an ERA under four in each of the last four seasons. That group includes Madison Bumgarner (World Series MVP), Cole Hamels (World Series MVP), Jon Lester (last year’s Cy Young runner-up in the NL), Max Scherzer (two-time Cy Young winner) and, you guessed it, Jose Quintana (underappreciated White Sox pitcher). And despite all the praise we heap on Sale, Quintana has actually led the White Sox in ERA two years in a row.
It’s only March but Quintana has already had a heck of a spring. Two weeks ago he flexed his muscles at the World Baseball Classic with a game for the ages against the United States. Quintana throttled the eventual tournament champs over 5 2/3 brilliant innings, limiting the Americans to one run on one hit. The Colombia native had a no-hit bid going until the sixth when Brandon Crawford finally broke through with a single to left field.
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Quintana proved his WBC breakout was no fluke by delivering another gem Thursday against the Reds. He set down the first 17 hitters he faced before losing his perfect game on a sixth-inning double by Beau Amaral. Quintana only needed 79 pitches to navigate seven scoreless frames as Chicago edged visiting Cincinnati 4-2. Quintana’s spring ERA now sits at an even 1.00.
Quintana checks off all the fantasy boxes except for one—he’s never won more than 13 games in a season. In fact, last year was the first time he even reached double digits. That’s because the left-hander has received a shocking lack of run support throughout his career.
The White Sox finished only a few games under .500 in 2016, but their bats fell silent whenever Quintana was on the mound. Quintana ranked 61st in run support out of 74 qualified starters last season, which was actually a slight improvement from a year earlier when he finished 72nd out of 78. So essentially, Quintana has been held back by plain old bad luck. Call him the Charlie Brown of MLB starting pitchers.
There may be a way for Quintana to boost his win total, but White Sox fans won’t like it. Quintana has emerged as a popular trade target, drawing interest from the Braves, Astros and Pirates among others. Joining Atlanta wouldn’t advance Quintana in his quest for more wins, but Houston would certainly be an interesting landing spot for his fantasy production.
The 28-year-old will only cost the White Sox $6 million this year and $8.35 million in 2018, which is chump change for a pitcher of Quintana’s caliber. Quintana has created an interesting paradox for the South Siders. If his ascent continues, the White Sox could trade Quintana to a desperate contender and probably get a king’s ransom for him. But if Quintana develops into a true ace, it might be harder for the White Sox to part with him, especially at his eminently reasonable $6 million salary.
Then again, the White Sox aren’t the sentimental type. Back in December, they dealt Sale and Adam Eaton both within a 24-hour span. Chicago seems committed to rebuilding, so why stop now? We’ll see how this all shakes out, but if there’s a big enough offer on the table for Quintana, don’t be surprised if the White Sox pull the trigger.
Miggy’s Status Unclear
Any long-time fantasy player knows there’s nothing worse than uncertainty. It’s especially infuriating this time of year when drafts are going on. How do you know where to pick Jason Kipnis and David Price when you have no idea when they’re coming back? The same goes for David Dahl and J.D. Martinez. Now we may have to add another name to that list.
Miguel Cabrera dropped an “I don’t know” bomb when asked about his status for Opening Day, naturally sending the fantasy world into a state of panic. Cabrera said he tweaked his back in the first game of the World Baseball Classic. He continued to play through the injury until last Thursday when he couldn’t finish a game against the Dominican Republic. Cabrera sat out Venezuela’s meaningless finale on Saturday (they had already been eliminated) before heading back to Tigers camp. The two-time MVP clearly wasn’t himself at the WBC (he hit just .190 over 21 at-bats) and has yet to return to Grapefruit League action.
Cabrera explained that the injury was originally to his right side but has now spread to his left side. “I will play when I am ready to play,” he said. “But I am not worried about that right now. I am worried about getting my back good and making sure I’m 100 percent.”
Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I was faced with a difficult decision the other night in the Rotoworld Friends and Family League. The choice was between Anthony Rizzo and Miguel Cabrera for the 15th pick. After a long deliberation (it’s a slow draft, so I had time to think), I went with Cabrera. Now I wish I had an undo button.
It’s entirely possible that Cabrera was just embracing his inner Bill Belichick by being vague for no reason. Maybe a day or two of rest is all he needs. But the Tigers aren’t going to risk further injury by dragging their $292 million first baseman onto the field when he’s at less than 100 percent. They need Cabrera healthy for the long haul. There’s also more leeway this year now that MLB has replaced the 15-day DL with the much shorter 10-day disabled list. My gut tells me Cabrera will be fine, but every day that passes without him playing will make him a riskier fantasy investment.
AL Quick Hits: A’s right-hander Kendall Graveman will start Opening Day against the Angels on April 3. Sonny Gray would have been a possibility to start Opening Day but he’s still recovering from a lat strain he suffered early on in spring training … In a surprise move, the Mariners optioned Daniel Vogelbach to Triple-A Tacoma to begin the year. Vogelbach was expected to platoon with Danny Valencia at first base but now it looks like Valencia will have first all to himself … The Angels got some bad news on Thursday when they found out Luis Valbuena will miss 4-6 weeks with a right hamstring strain. C.J. Cron will handle first base during his absence … Chris Archer will make his third straight Opening Day start at home against the Yankees on April 2. Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, Blake Snell and Matt Andriese fill out the rest of Tampa Bay’s starting rotation.
NL Quick Hits: Jeff Hoffman had been vying for the last spot in Colorado’s starting rotation but instead he’ll begin the year with Triple-A Albuquerque. The 24-year-old logged a 4.76 ERA over three Cactus League appearances … Stephen Strasburg will get the ball for the Nats against the Marlins on Opening Day. Max Scherzer got a late start this spring while recovering from a stress fracture in his right ring finger but is on track to pitch Washington’s third game of the season on April 6 … Derek Norris has drawn interest from a number of teams since getting let go by the Nationals last week. The Cardinals, Rockies and Rays have emerged as his top suitors … The Blue Jays and Phillies have checked in on Angel Pagan, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Pagan had a deal fall through with the Orioles due to a failed physical but looked healthy during the World Baseball Classic, hitting .286 in eight games for Puerto Rico … Yasiel Puig returned to the Dodgers’ lineup on Thursday after missing a few days with calf tightness. He went 1-for-4 with a two-run single in a win over Texas … Andre Ethier was diagnosed with a mild herniated disc in his back and is still awaiting CT scan and MRI results. He also received an epidural injection to numb the pain. Ethier’s availability for Opening Day is up in the air … Apparently showering is dangerous. That’s how Reds closer Raisel Iglesias hurt his elbow and hips a few weeks ago. He hasn’t pitched in a Cactus League game since March 14 and looks questionable at best for Opening Day … Pirates GM Neal Huntington confirmed Thursday that Jung Ho Kang won’t be ready for Opening Day. Kang has yet to arrive at camp while dealing with visa issues in his native South Korea … Brett Anderson has won a spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation and will pitch fourth in the order to begin the season (last year’s MLB ERA leader Kyle Hendricks will be the No. 5 starter). Anderson beat out Mike Montgomery, who is headed to the bullpen … Jake Arrieta launched a 465-foot homer off Zack Greinke on Thursday. It’s the longest home run by a pitcher in the Statcast Era … Asdrubal Cabrera got tossed from Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the Nationals. Afterwards, he won a gold medal at the passive aggressive Olympics by exiting the field as slowly as possible.