Keen eye of scouts led White Sox to Quintana
Shaheed, Siers watched the lefty in 2011, and now he's a key part of club's rotation
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The names of Daraka Shaheed and Joe Siers probably don't immediately resonate with White Sox fans or even Jose Quintana.
But without the eye for talent held by these longtime scouts, the White Sox wouldn't have one of the more underrated No. 2 starters in the American League.
It was Shaheed and Siers who watched Quintana as part of their coverage territory in the Florida State League during the 2011 season, when the left-hander worked for Class A Advanced Tampa in the Yankees' Minor League system. It also was Shaheed and Siers who recommended Quintana as a starter, despite him appearing in relief during 18 of his 30 games that season, when the Yankees chose not to put him on their 40-man roster after '11.
Quintana was signed by Chicago as a Minor League free agent on Nov. 10, 2011, and the rest has been a somewhat surprising part of White Sox history. The 25-year-old is coming off of a 2013 campaign where he made 33 starts and pitched 200 innings, while striking out 164 with a 3.51 ERA.
Quintana's 17 no-decisions in 2013 stand as an AL record for one season. His 27 no-decisions over 55 starts since 2012 are one more than Mat Latos' total of 26 for the Major League high in that time period. Strangely enough, it was Quintana's strong makeup, which has been shown during and after these no-decisions, which stood as one of the first selling points for Shaheed and Siers.
"A very poised young man. Professional," Siers told MLB.com of Quintana in a recent phone interview. "He knew how to pitch and work both sides of the plate. Just a good-looking kid."
"Tools can be similar a lot of times, and when it comes down to it, a lot of guys in the Major Leagues have similar talent," Shaheed said. "Quintana had some nice tools going forward, but the way he went about his job … I thought he had growth and had potential to get better."
Shaheed vividly remembers some of those pitching qualities during the two times he watched Quintana work in relief in June 2011. He had a plus-fastball, a solid breaking ball and changeup, was a strike thrower and a left-hander with a strong body who went about his business executing down in the zone. He featured clean arm action and good balance.
According to Siers, Quintana had no real red flags.
"I thought he would have to develop a better changeup," said Siers, who is in his sixth year with the White Sox. "But he located to both sides. He threw two types of breaking balls. His slider was more of a cutter, and I think [White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] has tightened it up to be more of a true cutter.
"That breaking ball was OK. He could vary the angle, get depth or widen it out to a left-hander. But I thought the changeup would be key. If the changeup gets better, I thought, 'My gosh. There's no telling what he could do.'"
Scouts file their reports on individual players and move on to their next assignment. Quintana didn't become a topic again for Siers until November 2011, when he saw the list of six-year free agents. He turned Quintana's name in to senior director of baseball operations Dan Fabian, and both Fabian and then assistant general manager Rick Hahn came back quickly with a few questions.
Could Quintana become a starter, a role he was filling when Siers saw him after Shaheed? Would he fit on the 40-man roster? Siers and then Shaheed answered in the affirmative.
"To be honest, I didn't know he would be a No. 2 starter," Siers said. "I thought he had a chance to be a back end [guy], a fourth starter. I knew he was a guy who could get some innings. He commanded the ball and could pitch deep into games."
"This was good for me because it became my first chance to play in the big leagues," Quintana said. "I feel comfortable here, with good teammates and a good team."
Quintana's success is due in equal parts to the White Sox player development and the left-hander himself -- to go along with those who first scouted him -- as mentioned by Shaheed and Siers. The White Sox player development staff saw something in the way Quintana carried himself, and after an impressive 2012 debut, it was Quintana who worked hard two offseasons ago to become a more durable starter.
"We didn't have to do a whole lot," said White Sox assistant general manager Buddy Bell of Quintana. "He's so competitive and has such a big heart. Whatever we suggested, he was able to do. He's really, really coachable.
"For me, it's that he's able to use all parts of the plate now, not just the one part of the plate. Whenever he got in trouble, it was because he wasn't able to expand. Now because of his delivery, he's able to do things pretty easily when you suggest it. He has always been that way."
Bell said the White Sox knew they had something in Quintana as soon as he started throwing in Spring Training 2012. Thanks to the work of Shaheed and Siers, in an era of baseball being governed more and more by numbers, Quintana got to make that next step with the White Sox.
"Guys slip through the cracks," Bell said. "We are just lucky we saw him on a pretty good night, apparently. That's luck, too. He's just a good kid."
"[The Yankees] didn't see him being a top guy, and I guess we had a better feel for him," said Shaheed, in his 13th year with the White Sox. "It happens sometimes."
"You are always happy to get those guys," Siers said. "I'm happy for myself. I'm happy for the White Sox and happy for Quintana. It's my job."