In an organization that has seen a high amount of changeover in the past two years Roman Quinn is the absentee uncle who is super cool but never around. Taken in the second round of a 2011 draft that has gone from horrendous to just plain old weird (the current 4 major leaguers from it are Cody Asche, Adam Morgan, Ken Giles, and Colton Murray), Quinn has had an up and down trip through the minor leagues over the past 5+ seasons. The Phillies moved him to shortstop after signing, he then went through a list of injuries rivaling the plagues sent upon Jesse Biddle, then was moved from shortstop back to his natural center field, and then he went through another set of plagues. Just to top all of that off the Phillies also had him start switch hitting. In terms of prospect status he peaked after the 2012 season where he was the #2 prospect in the system and #100 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America.
He is still only 23, he just hit .302/.372/.451 this season, and he is already on the 40 man roster. So let’s revisit who Roman Quinn is as a prospect and what that means going forward.
Might as well start with the easy part. The speed is still all there for Quinn, his home to first times are elite and he will instantly be one of the fastest players in the majors. He is at close to a 75% success rate on stolen bases in AA this year. That is not bad, especially given his volume of attempts (39 in 71 games), but to really have a ton of value he is going to need to work on getting better reads (and particularly on not getting picked off). Even if he is not stealing bases Quinn is a distraction to the pitcher and catchers who must pay attention to him at all times.
The speed plays in the second easy part of this profile, his glove. Could he routes be better? Of course. Does he still need some work in the outfield? Absolutely. But those are things that would take Quinn from an above average center fielder to one of the best in the game. His speed covers up for a lot mistakes. His arm played at shortstop so it is no surprise that he has an above average to plus arm in the outfield. The Phillies have been getting him time in left and right field as well, the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions but he should be very capable in both of them.
Now to the bat…
Quinn has been surprisingly consistent at the plate over his career:
We will get to the PA part of this later, but we can see otherwise Quinn is a guy with surprising, but not incredible, power for a speedster. He strikes out at a decent rate, but he also matches that with a decent walk rate. What makes Quinn so interesting is his L/R splits. I mentioned at the top that Quinn learned to switch hit in the pros, he is actually a natural right handed hitter. He struggled from the left side greatly early in his career, but scouts praised that side as being the better of two swings. We are now to the point where we can say he is a proficient switch hitter, and here is where he was this season in AA (both sides at very similar BB and K rates):
Batting Right Handed: 70 AB .300/.367/.400 5 2B 1 3B 0 HR
Batting Left Handed: 216 AB .282/.360/.454 9 2B 5 3B 6 HR
From the right side he is basically Cesar Hernandez. He can put some doubles in the gaps, maybe some down the lines. He tends to spray the ball around with a lot on the ground, and maybe occasionally he will get a hold of one and take it out of the park. The swing lacks loft and is more what you would expect from a player with Quinn’s size and speed. There is nothing wrong with this, he isn’t a black hole there, it is just important to recognize there are some limitations in the platoon split that are not there for others.
The good news is that from the side he will be hitting from more often, Quinn is a much better hitter. He is a dead pull hitter from the left side, but he is certainly pull dominant.
If your instincts are the same as mine your first instinct is to think that this player is going to be shifted often. The only problem is Quinn’s speed and his proficiency as a bunter. If teams start adapting their defense to his hitting tendencies they are just going to give away bases. This is something that affects him from both sides as fielders must constantly be prepared for the bunt as he can have times in the 3.8s on drag and jailbreak bunts. I don’t expect him to maintain a .170 ISO from the left side, but if he can be in the .140-.150 range he could be a guy who hits 10-12 home runs a year with a pile of doubles and triples (some of which will be speed induced).
Quinn is not going to hit .300 as a major league hitter, but it might not be unreasonable for him to be in the .260-.270 range based on his speed, and that plus his speed, some on base, and a bit of power is a very valuable player. This season for the Indians Rajai Davis hit .261/.319/.411 with 12 HRs, 35 steals, and good defense over 115 games. That was worth 2.7 wins according to Fangraphs. Over 162 games that is a close to 4 win player, and Quinn’s ceiling is theoretically a touch higher than that.
But now we must address the hooded specter in the corner. Roman Quinn has never played more than 88 regular season games in a season. He did play 112 in 2014, but it took a trip to the AFL. The list of injuries is long and it includes soft tissue injuries, bone breaks, concussions, and everything in between. The first concern is playing time, and it has certainly hurt Quinn who would have almost certainly made it to AAA this year and possibly the majors on the 2015 Aaron Altherr plan. Somehow Quinn has continued a steady course of development through all of this, which is impressive. Even more miraculously after all of these injuries to his low body, Quinn still has his top line speed and is as athletic as he was the day the Phillies drafted him. So far none of the issues have been recurring which would be a real red flag, and some of the issues have been just freak accidents (concussion from a pick off throw to the head). It is fair to be hesitant about Quinn going forward on injuries, but I also think it is too soon to say he will always be hurt.
Heat map from mlbfarm.com, photo by Baseball Betsy