What can we expect from Carlos Quentin in ‘09?

Without question, Carlos Quentin was either the biggest draft day steal or the most shrewd free agent/waiver pickup of the 2008 fantasy baseball season. Owners who had Quentin on their roster almost certainly were competing for the league title at season’s end. My friend Ray added him in our 12-team league, and the combination of him, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun and Geovany Soto was simply too much to handle. He went on to win the league in just his second season of playing fantasy baseball! Great stuff.

Unfortunately, Quentin suffered a season-ending injury that cut his breakout campaign short. He was among the league leaders in many offensive categories at the time of his self-inflicted hand injury. Quentin was a legitimate candidate for AL MVP at the time of his injury.

He is expected to be back for spring training; there should be no residual effects from his injury that would limit him from a physical standpoint. While Quentin will surely be selected somewhere before the fourth or fifth rounds, fantasy owners are faced with a daunting question: Was his 2008 season a fluke, or is he for real?

We’ll take a look at his numbers from a sabermetric view, and also peek at his earlier record at Arizona and in the minors. After that, we should have a better understanding of where he should be selected and what to anticipate production-wise. All statistics used here are thanks to the guys over at Fangraphs.

Carlos Quentin’s player card can be seen here.

In the minors

He was picked 29th overall in the 2003 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks after a hugely successful college career at Stanford (one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award). Quentin spent parts of 2006 and 2007 at the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate, the Tucson Sidewinders.

Here are his minor league totals:

118 GP, 132 H in 433 AB (.305), 13 HR, 79 RBI, 42 doubles, 54 BB, 60 K, 5 SB

2006 (AAA): .377 OBP, .487 SLG, .865 OPS, .198 ISO, .316 BABIP
2007 (AAA): .395 OBP, .574 SLG, .969 OPS, .226 ISO, .371 BABIP

I placed his doubles total in italics because I am a believer in “gap power often turns into greater home run power” with younger players. He amassed 42 doubles in just 433 at-bats, while his SLG, OPS and ISO all continued to escalate. While his high BABIP (especially in ’07) indicates luck is involved, I still see his ISO numbers and doubles totals as indicators that Quentin was beginning to lock himself in as a legit power threat.

In the desert

Called up in 2006, Quentin seemed overmatched at times, with a 20.5 strikeout percentage (34 K in 57 GP). He struggled to find the consistency he had at Tucson, hitting .253. He did, however, make his hits count. In 166 at-bats, he tagged 13 doubles and nine homers, and racked up 32 RBI. Certainly, the Diamondbacks had to be pleased with this. Extrapolated over a 500-AB season, that would be approximately 27 HR and 96 RBI. Not bad at all.

But 2007 was a lost cause for Quentin, as he struggled to produce following offseason shoulder surgery on the Glenoid labrum (cartilage) of his left shoulder. It is possible that this is what caused him to struggle late in the 2006 season as well.

With a torn labrum, the shoulder becomes less stable, uncomfortable, or even painful. It may also lead to apprehension with certain movements. With right-handed batters, the follow-through of the swing will rotate the left shoulder rapidly outward (external rotation), placing stress on the anterior aspect of the shoulder, as well as the labrum. With the tear in his left shoulder, it is possible that he had discomfort or apprehension on the follow-through of his swing. This would not only decrease his ability to drive the ball with force, but also hinder his bat control.

He scuffled to a .214 average, and struck out at a 23.5 percent rate. With an OBP of .298 and an OPS of .647, the D-Backs made the decision to demote him to Triple-A. He was dealt to the Chicago White Sox in the offseason. The Diamondbacks’ unwillingness to be patient with Quentin following shoulder surgery would prove quite a mistake.

White Sox steal a star

The White Sox, looking to get some youthful right-handed power in their outfield, were able to steal Quentin from the Diamondbacks for a song (first baseman Christopher Carter). Another year past shoulder surgery and apparently healthy, Quentin produced one of the best out-of-the-blue performances in recent fantasy baseball history.

April and May were torrid months for Quentin: 14 homers and 48 RBI. He slugged over .600 in April, July and August, and finished the year with a .288/.394/.571 line, with 36 homers and 100 RBI. He actually performed better after the All-Star break: He hit .277/.375/.525 before, and .312/.436/.681 after.

Injury strikes

On Sept. 5, Quentin injured his wrist after hitting it with his bat out of frustration after fouling off a pitch. He missed the remainder of the season, and took with him a major chunk of production from each fantasy team that had him. Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had a somewhat entertaining take on the injury, saying, “That’s up to him, (whether or not to stop hitting the knob with his fist.) He’s not my child. My job is winning games. My job is putting guys out there. I’m not going to tell the players what to do, what not to do. The only thing I tell them is don’t go drink and drive. That’s it.” I outlined his injury at my DL Informer site.

2009 forecast

After his Herculean effort in 2008, it would be easy to take Quentin in the upper echelon of players. Is he first-round worthy? No. Second or third round? Absolutely. I have no worries in regard to his injury history, and he is going to be hitting in a prime spot in the White Sox batting order (likely third) with plenty of protection from Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye. A resurgence from Paul Konerko would be an added bonus.

Based on his undeniable power, low BABIP in 2008 (.280), and ability to draw walks at a decent rate, I foresee another outstanding season. He is yet another season past shoulder surgery, so this should be a non-issue at this point.

2009 Projections: .287/.379/.521/.900, 30 HR, 105 RBI

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