Is Cal Quantrill Taking The Zach Plesac Path?

Cal Quantrill came over to the Cleveland Guardians (should have been the Spiders) in a trade with the Padres that involved pitcher Mike Clevinger. Quantrill didn’t have much success in San Diego and Cleveland decided to use him in a relief role for 2020. After spending the first two months of 2021 in the bullpen Cal Quantrill finally got the call to join the Cleveland rotation. In 2021 he finished with 149.2 innings, appeared in 40 games, and pitch 22 games as a starter. As a starter, he produced a 3.12 ERA, 12.9 K-BB%, and 1.15 WHIP.

Quantrill has impressed not just performance-wise but also has caught the eye of his coaches. DeMarlo Hale (bench coach for Cleveland) via a press conference noted that Quantrill has really developed his pitches and consistently hits both sides of the plate well. This is what Cleveland does and is known for, their ability to get their pitchers to improve upon their command and hit the perfect spot in the zone. Eno Sarris did a fantastic article on The Athletic about Quantrill where he discussed recent breakout pitchers. In that article is a quote from Quantrill himself. “I’m calling it a cutter, not sure it’s a stereotypical cutter. I’m just trying to change the plane of the slider a little bit and throw it harder, so I guess it’s a cutter,” the pitcher said. “It’s still a slider grip, but imagine that you’ve shifted your palm underneath the ball, rotated it back so it’s more square. Throwing it to a location more than I ever threw a slider to a location because the movement is more consistent, and I can do more with it.” Quantrill shaped his slider differently to gain more command on the pitch. 

With solid command established from Quantrill and a successful season behind him it begs the question: is he for real? The underlying numbers say it isn’t. A low BABIP with high ERA estimators isn’t something you want to see. Seeing his numbers felt like Deja Vu for me as his profile reminds me a lot of his teammate, Zach Plesac

In 2020, Plesac broke out with a 2.28 ERA in eight starts and most impressively pitched at least six innings in every start. He too had a good walk rate and above-average WHIP but his underlying numbers showed regression was in the works. Some believed the numbers while others didn’t, others like me. Yes, I shamefully bought into Zach Plesac and his wonderful slider and yes it burned me in a draft or two. Here was the problem with Plesac, he had stellar command but if that command faltered so did his entire arsenal.

This is eerily similar to Quantrill. As stated above he worked on command, developed command, and succeed with command. What if that command takes a step back though? Is his stuff good enough to rely on? Sarris uses a metric called Stuff+ (a lot of Eno Sarris love in this article) a metric that essentially rates a pitcher’s pitches and Quantrill’s stuff rating is a 95.4 (as of 8/31). That is below pitchers like Jon Gray and Wil Crowe. In other words, not a great rating.

Even if you look at location numbers of his most used pitch – the sinker – when left in the middle of the zone had a .267 ISO and .350 wOBA against (not good). His third most used pitch, his four-seam, had a .433 ISO and .512 wOBA against (not good again). His slider is the only pitch that still performs when left in the middle of the zone. If you bring movement into play only one of his pitches has above average movement, the rest are average to below-average. 

Let’s say Cal Quantrill regresses in command, something that isn’t always consistent year to year unlike “stuff” then how high do his numbers rise? It’s fair to say you can look at Plesac. A pitcher with a mid-four ERA and someone that is nothing but a streamer or matchup play. I’m not sure where his ADP will be and it will most definitely not be as inflated as Plesac’s was in 2020, but consider this a lesson learned from me and leave Quantrill on the draft board for 2022.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

It really should have been the Spiders. It’s still real to me dammit!