Chris Sale is going to be the ace. He’s going to be the guy everyone targets early in fantasy drafts to head their rotation. Jeff Samardzija is the newcomer, coming off a great season, and the signal that the White Sox are, in fact, “going for it.” He will grab headlines, and may be targeted a little earlier in drafts than he ought to. These are the two who are going to demand all of the focus in the White Sox’s rotation, the ones everyone will talk about. I implore you, though, do not forget about Jose Quintana. One of the more underrated pitchers in the game, he’s done nothing but put up consistently solid numbers in his short career. No, he’s not going to anchor anyone’s rotation, but as someone who is projected to be a late-round pick, he can provide huge value in that spot.
The number one thing Quintana is going to give you is a solid ERA, despite pitching in a horrific park for pitchers. Over his three-year career, the lefty has put up a 3.50 ERA, a number that puts him in the same breath as Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, and Matt Moore. He took a big step forward last year as well, with a 3.21 ERA (30th best in MLB) supplemented by a 2.81 FIP (10th best in MLB). Now, it needs to be mentioned that part of that success was due to a 3.5 percent HR/FB rate that will almost certainly rise. However, that should be offset by his career-high BABIP falling back towards his career norms, as well as his ever-improving walk and ground ball rates. For those reasons, we have plenty of reasons to believe in his WHIP. He’s able to keep guys off the bases not only by throwing strikes, but throwing effective strikes. Quintana has become a master of pounding the low part of the strike zone, as we can see here:
This is a perfect example of how to pitch in a place like U.S. Cellular Field. That kind of zone profile is going to lead to a lot of ground balls, which may turn into singles, but it’ll keep his ERA low.
Though he won’t lead any quality fantasy rotation in strikeouts, Quintana isn’t going to hurt anyone in that category, either. In the last two years, he has set down just over 20 percent of the batters he has faced, with an average of 171 Ks per year. That second number is actually 24th best, by the way. The reason for that is durability. While his rates aren’t going to be Earth-shattering, he’s shown a clear ability to take the ball every five days, which is obviously paramount in compiling counting stats. Now, many will point to Quintana’s below-average whiff rate, which is certainly concerning. However, he gets guys to look at strikes at a very high rate (30 percent in 2014), and pounds the strike zone, especially on the first pitch. If you are starting two-thirds of at bats with an 0-1 count, you’re going to get plenty of token strikeouts.
Of course, what has killed Quintana in the last few years has been his low win totals. He’s yet to crack double digits in wins in his career. Considering what the White Sox have done so far this offseason, that should change. For one thing, the addition of Adam LaRoche should help to add some extra run support. That likely isn’t the end of the lineup improvements, either, as they are clearly trying to build a playoff contender this year. The big key, though, is the improvement of the bullpen. In 2014, no relief unit compiled more losses than Chicago’s, and just two bullpens posted a higher ERA. That is a less-than-ideal scenario for a starting pitcher to be put into. Now, they have a legitimate relief ace in David Robertson to finish off games. It’s not just him, either. They also just brought in Zach Duke, who is coming off an extremely impressive 2014 campaign. With the improved bullpen, and the assumption that more moves are to come as Rick Hahn pushes his chips in for a 2015 run, there is little doubt that Quintana can reach double digit wins next year, probably pushing that number closer to 15.
For some reason that eludes me, the Jose Quintana remains one of the more underrated pitchers in the game, in both real life and fantasy. I mean, at one point last year he was owned in just 38 percent of ESPN leagues, which is pure insanity. If that means that he can be had in one of the final rounds of drafts next year, he is setting himself up for some ridiculous value, as a top-30 finish isn’t out of the question, and a spot in the top 40 is downright probable. With the White Sox getting closer to the national spotlight, this may be the last year that Quintana is under the radar, so jump on the bandwagon while you still can.
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