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Over/Under 2021 Preview: Cal Quantrill

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Will Cal Quantrill be worth more or less than 1.4 fWAR in 2021?

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

Based on ZiPS projections, Cal Quantrill is expected to finish 2021 with the following stats:

4.90 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 7.76 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 33 G (22 GS), 123.0 IP

Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Let’s Go Tribe Discord.

Matt Lyons’s Prediction: OVER

Give it a year, and Cal Quantrill may give us a reason not to miss Mike Clevinger.

OK, maybe that’s heaping on a bit too much praise on a guy who has yet to start for a full season, but I truly believe that Quantrill can be something special for Cleveland with his unique blend of pitches. At the very least, I think he’ll be better than a pitcher approaching a 5.00 ERA who gets shifted to the bullpen in 2021, as ZiPS seems to project.

I wrote shortly after last month’s Carlos Carrasco trade that the door is now open for Quantrill to earn a starting role, thanks to a sort-of “reversed” arsenal he has. He’s essentially transformed himself from a four-seam/changeup guy in the minors to a sinker/slider pitcher. But unlike most sinker/slider combinations, his sinker has a lot more horizontal movement than you’d expect, and his slider has a bigger drop to it.

Other than the occasional cartoon-y two-seamer zipping across PitchingNinja’s Twitter account, neither movement profile is too crazy on its own. But they play well off one another and I think Cleveland can help him unlock his potential by maximizing the weak contact he gets with a great infield defense behind him.

ZiPS doesn’t project groundball rates, but that’s a vital part of any successful sinkerballer’s game. Steamer projects it at 43.8%, but even that I think is too low, given that it’s going off his minor-league numbers when his two-seamer wasn’t as advanced (and utilized) as it is now. Whatever it lands at, with José Ramírez, Amed Rosario, Andrés Giménez, César Hernández, and miscellaneous-outfielder-who-doesn’t-fit-anywhere-else-but-first-base in the infield, anything on the ground is going to be scooped for an out more often than not.

Down the stretch last year, Quantrill started twice as an “opener” and pitched so well in both that he ended up going 4.0 innings and 3.0 innings against the White Sox and Pirates, respectively. Not a comprehensive sample or the most difficult opponents by any stretch, but it had to make some ears perk up at the least.

This could all be moot if Cleveland opts for a lefty as their No. 5 starter in either Scott Moss or Logan Allen, but Quantrill’s stuff would only get better as a reliever. Put me down for an easy over.

Chris D. Davies’s Prediction: UNDER

I want to like Cal Quantrill. He barely walks batters and limits their exit velocity and hard-hit rate when he does give up contact. But, beyond that, he’s right in the middle of every other pitcher. Part of the problem, why I can’t buy in, is that Quantrill throws his sinker 48% of the time and his slider 35% of the time, and the more he throws the more he becomes a two-pitch pitcher.

Batters don’t seem to be particularly phased by this development, however. Between 2019 and 2020, Quantrill decreased the xwOBA on his sinker from .309 to .278. Unfortunately, the slider just wasn’t working as a put-away pitch. Its swing-and-miss rate decreased from 23.9% to 14.8% despite increasing as a share of his total pitches by 14% (from 21.5% to 35.%). The slider’s xwOBA also shot up to .346 from .286.

In an expanded role this coming year could we expect him to be like a former sinker-heavy Cleveland pitcher? My money would be on him being more like the 2019 version of Corey Kluber than any previous incarnation, and 0.7 fWAR in seven starts seems reasonable to expect from Quantrill, especially with so much competition around him.

If Quantrill can’t get batters to miss his slider and doesn’t use his changeup or another pitch to great effect, what’s to stop the team from keeping him in the rotation or turning to another arm in the bullpen? There are lots of options available, one of the greatest strengths of this Cleveland team. I expect them to flex that strength early and often, which will limit the margins guys like Quantrill have to work with.

Poll

Will Cal Quantrill finish 2021 with an fWAR over or under 1.4?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Over
    (136 votes)
  • 18%
    Under
    (30 votes)
166 votes total Vote Now