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Keep an Eye on José Quintana?

The Chicago White Sox’s pitching staff isn’t living up to expectations. For a team that was so reliant on hitting in the early 2000s, the White Sox’s pitching has carried them in recent years. This year, however, things are a bit different. They’ve received surprise performances by Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, but their normal rotation stalwarts — John Danks and Gavin Floyd — have floundered. Danks eventually went on the DL with a shoulder injury. In his absence, José Quintana has been fantastic. In 35.1 innings, the rookie has an exceptional 1.53 ERA. With the team’s rotation still in shambles, Quintana may keep his job longer than anticipated.

Even when Danks returns, Quintana is a good bet to retain his rotation spot. With Floyd (5.63 ERA) and Phil Humber (6.01 ERA) both struggling, they are more likely to shift to the bullpen once Danks is healthy again. Since Floyd has a much larger track record of success, Humber looks to be the odd man out. Danks was supposed to return this week, but experienced some discomfort during his rehab outing. They have yet to find an structural damage in Danks’ shoulder, but he may not return for a while. With Quintana performing this well, he’s a good bet to keep his spot.

Whether that’s relevant for fantasy owners is yet to be determined. Quintana has been exceptional early on, but there are definitely reasons for concern. Quintana has struggled with his strikeout rate. He’s struck out just 13.1% of batters this season, so he hasn’t been overpowering many hitters. Those struggles have been somewhat offset by Quintana’s refusal to walk anyone. Quintana’s walk rate has been a miniscule 5.6% this year. He’s not putting himself in bad situations.

At the same time, his approach may not work in his home park. Quintana has been a fly ball pitcher this season, posting a 40.4% ground ball rate. For a pitcher who allows that many fly balls, he’s lucky to have allowed just two home runs this season.

As expected, Quintana’s peripherals indicate that regression is coming. His 3.17 FIP is actually fairly solid, but his 4.02 xFIP is probably more indicative of the type of pitcher he’ll become going forward. That’s certainly a useful pitcher, but unless Quintana starts offering more strikeouts, he’s not a great fantasy asset.

Based on those numbers, you probably shouldn’t rush out to pick up Quintana in your league. But there are some reasons to keep an eye on him. Quintana’s last start was incredibly promising. In eight innings, Quintana struck out 6 batters, and walked none. He even managed to keep the ball on the ground. Overreacting to one start is an incredibly stupid thing to do, especially considering the Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t exactly an offensive powerhouse without Matt Kemp. Still, it was a promising line from a young player.

On top of that, Quintana is working with the best pitching coach in the game. Don Cooper has a history of taking useless pitchers and turning them into something decent. And while many of them have had a stronger pedigree than Quintana, it will be interesting to see if Cooper can work his magic again.

Right now, Quintana is definitely the type of player you want to keep an eye on. If he can string together two-to-three more starts where he’s able to get strikeouts, he might be a player worth picking up. Betting on Quintana, however, is really based on how strongly you feel about Cooper’s ability to work with pitchers. It’s more than likely Quintana is just experiencing a hot streak right now, but there’s a tiny chance that he can turn into a useful fantasy asset. His next couple of starts will determine which of those outcomes is more likely.