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White Sox Mon Feb 14 2011
As he enters his fourth season in Chicago, Carlos Quentin undeniably is an integral piece of the White Sox puzzle. Though he spent the majority of the off-season on the trading block, the White Sox kept him around with a one-year, $5.05 million deal, avoiding arbitration.
As one of the top hitting prospects of the 2006 draft, Quentin has produced about as well as expected. Though he doesn't hit for average, he is a resourceful power hitter who finds a way to get on base, a disciplined hitter who makes the pitchers work do the work.
Quentin took a lot of heat last season from fans and media frustrated he wasn't hitting like 2008, his MVP-caliber first season on the South Side, but the maniacally intense right fielder actually had a pretty good season. Sure, he batted .243, but his .342 on-base percentage and .479 slugging percentage (.821 OPS) made for a strong middle-of-the-order hitter.
As a power hitter, Quentin hit 26 home runs (2nd on the team to Paul Konerko) and scored 73 runs. He also drove in 87 runs with just 110 hits in 2010, which is impressive. He drew 50 walks and got hit by 20 pitches, which demonstrates his ability to get on base even when he isn't squaring up the ball.
Unlike past seasons, Quentin remained generally healthy and stayed off of the disabled list in 2010. His ability to remain healthy was invaluable, as it allowed backup right fielder Andruw Jones the opportunity to fill in other outfield positions or serve as the designated hitter. Though Quentin nursed some minor injuries (hamstring, knee, hand, ankle), he played a career-high 131 games last season, which helped quiet some of the debate about his injured past.
The 2007-2009 seasons for Quentin were marred with injury and stints on the disabled list. In 2007, they limited him to just 81 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2008, Quentin suffered a season-ending broken wrist Sept. 1 and missed the rest of the season, including Chicago's four playoff games. The 2009 season found Quentin on the disabled list (48 games) with plantar fasciitis. Quentin's ability to remain healthy in 2011 is a concern and will dictate his success and fate with the White Sox.
Yet injuries aside, the biggest concern is Quentin's defense. Fan Graphs ranked him as the worst right fielder to get even semi-regular playing time last season, rating him 32.7 runs below the average right fielder (via UZR/150).
It seems Quentin's struggle in the outfield is an inability to get a good read on the ball after it is hit. His initial instinct is to run backward, which often leaves him off-balance and out of position. Certainly he does make some amazing catches and dives, but his late attempts to make a play not only lead to errors (and runs), but can also lead to injury with last-minute dives to catch misread balls. Can he show any improvement this year?
At Soxfest, Ozzie Guillen predicted Quentin will again hit like he did in 2008 (36 home runs, .965 OPS in 130 games), and if his 2010 improvements in health and offensive performance are indicators, the 28-year-old at least is trending in the right direction.
As the season begins, there is always some worry about Quentin's production early on, as he tends to struggle in April. After hitting just .187 in April last year, look for Quentin to be focused and driven - hopefully not too driven -- early on. If he can avoid the slump in April, it could be a catalyst for confidence and a successful season for both him and the White Sox.