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Don’t sleep on Cal Quantrill

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The Indians’ newest sinkerballer is a potential hidden gem in the Mike Clevinger trade

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cleveland Indians David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

The discussion around the return from the Mike Clevinger trade typically begins with Josh Naylor, the young outfielder who still has a lot to prove as a major-league contributor. Or maybe it drifts to Gabriel Arias, a 20-year-old shortstop prospect with the potential to be the Indians’ next star at the position.

But rarely does it ever get to Cal Quantrill.

The Indians’ newest sinkerballer quietly held down the fort in 14.2 innings mixed between six relief outings and two “opener” starts where he was effective enough to warrant staying in the game for three-plus innings. There is still a lot to learn about the 25-year-old, but it’s not hard to see why the Indians wanted him.

A starter throughout his entire minor league career, Quantrill found himself in the ‘pen a few times with the Padres in 2019 and in all but one of his 10 appearances for San Diego this season. It was the same story when he came over to Cleveland in September — mostly because the Indians were flush with starting pitching, even after trading Clevinger.

Quantrill finished his half-season in Cleveland allowing three earned runs and six hits while striking out 13 over his 14.2 innings of work. He fully embraced his sinker/slider combination, throwing the two a combined 83.3% of the time in 2020, up from 58.4% last year. The result — over about a third of the innings — was a small bump in ground ball rate and overall weaker contact off opponent’s bats.

Speaking of changes over last year, Quantrill seems to be adapting to his new home well. He has picked up James Karinchak’s ability to hold runners, and he may have also picked up on something else:

Although sparsely used, Quantrill’s dart-like fourseam fastball was the third strike for four of his 13 strikeouts as he climbed the ladder to make opposing batters chase after watching his sinker all at-bat. It’s a pitch that he threw 6% of the time, but with a profile remarkably similar to his sinker it makes for a great out-pitch.