Fantasy Baseball Draft Sleeper: Cal Quantrill

We are always looking for players to draft who other managers are sleeping on – hence the term sleeper. They can take the form of a player who is coming back from injury, a prospect who is ready to break out, a young player who is looking at more playing time, or even a veteran who has changed teams and gets a ballpark or lineup upgrade .

In this series, I will continue to evaluate the merits of drafting these players earlier than your league-mates or in some cases even drafting them at all in deep leagues.

Let’s take a look at another starting pitcher who is available in the late rounds of fantasy drafts – Cal Quantrill of the Cleveland Guardians.

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A Late Bloomer?

Quantrill is a former first-round pick of the Padres back in 2016 at age 21. He moved quickly through low-A ball but stalled out in Triple-A and didn’t have the type of minor league success that you’d expect from a top prospect. In 2019, he made his major league debut for San Diego and ended up throwing 103 innings, making 18 starts and five relief appearances. That rookie year wasn’t great as he pitched to a 5.16 ERA and was barely a replacement-level player, striking out just 21% of opposing hitters and allowing a 41.5% hard contact rate.

In 2020, he was moved to the pen and the Padres seem to give up on him as a starter and viewed him as a long reliever. He was traded to Cleveland in the Mike Clevinger deal and continued to pitch in relief for Cleveland but ended up making two starts for his new club, too. He threw only 32 innings in 2020 between both clubs but was much more effective with a 2.25 ERA and 23% strikeout. His underlying numbers from him weren’t all that much different, but he showed some improvement from his rookie year.

He broke camp in 2021 as a reliever and pitched exclusively in relief until June when the Indians started to stretch him out from long relief and put him into the rotation. Cleveland’s rotation was decimated by injuries with Shane Bieber and others going down, which gave Quantrill a chance to start and he never looked back.

2021 Success

Quantrill went on to start 22 games for the Guardians (well, they weren’t the Guardians then) and finished the season with an 8-3 record and a 2.89 ERA. As a starter, he didn’t whiff too many hitters with only a 20% strikeout rate, but he pitched effectively by limiting walks and hard contact. He made a major change in his pitch mix in 2021 by de-emphasizing his slider and adding a cutter. His slider is his best out pitch, but by throwing it less often, he was able to throw strikes more often. He also threw his sinker less often though it was still his primary pitch at 36%.

The cutter really helped keep hitters off balance and was easily his most effective pitch. His sinker/cutter combo was paired with a changeup to lefties and a curveball to righties and he was able to get hitters out without being an overly hard thrower as his two-seamer and four-seamer sat right around 94 MPH.

Quantrill was a solid innings-eater even if he wasn’t dominating with strikeouts. From July 22nd on, he pitched six or more innings in 12 of 13 starts, going 6-2 down the stretch.

Real Breakout or Fools’ Gold?

Quantrill was good pitching well enough for my good friend Eric Samulski to take notice and he did a really solid breakdown of him in this video that he posted on August 25th. Eric does amazing work and he highlighted some of the major changes that Quantrill made when he moved into the rotation.

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Eric was very skeptical about Quantrill’s ability to sustain his success based on how much he was pitching to contact and not missing bats. And I agree that he’s not really going to be a pitcher you draft for strikeout upside as he simply hasn’t shown those chops as a starter or reliever at the big league level.

However, I will point out that Quantrill made six more starts after Eric made this video, going 4-1 and allowing one earned run or fewer in four of those starts. It’s quite possible that regression is still coming and that he could get hit harder this season, but I am intrigued with him as a young guy who has possibly figured out how to pitch and not just rely on throwing hard. As Eric said, there is n’t a lot of room for error, but the fact that Quantrill throws 4-5 different pitches I think bodes well for his prospects of him as he can continue to evolve as a pitcher and tweak his pitch mix as necessary.

Where to Draft

We have Quantrill as the SP91 on the board with an overall ranking of 234. That’s right around where his industry ADP is and I feel it’s justified based on his solid showing in the second half of 2021 as a starter. He’s not a sexy pick by any means, but he’s certainly a guy who could build upon his success from him this season and give you some reliable innings. If you’d rather not gamble on a riskier pick like Mitch Keller and want a safer arm in your rotation, then I think Quantrill is a guy you should consider late in your drafts.

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