On what’s expected to be a strong starting rotation in the years to come, Cal Quantrill is trying to cement his spot with the San Diego Padres. Here’s his story.
Don’t worry Cal Quantrill, we see you.
With a 6-3 record, Quantrill boasts a stat line of a 3.23 ERA, 1.115 WHIP, and 61 strikeouts through 75.1 innings pitched. Those are the best of his three-year career in the Padres’ system and he’s only getting better.
With a strong delivery, good command, and ice in his veins, Cal is quickly becoming a fan favorite as he makes his case for joining San Diego’s coveted 2020 rotation.
So, how did the 24-year-old Canadian end up in southern California?
The rookie can trace his baseball roots to his father, Paul Quantrill, a former All-Star and 14-year veteran reliever. He played most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays but he enjoyed a short stint with the San Diego Padres in 2005.
Paul spent his last year in Canada as an All-Star pitcher in 2001, leading all American League pitchers with 80 games played. He followed up with three more league-leading seasons for games pitched, two of those being the most in all of major league baseball.
Born in Port Hope, Ontario, young Cal Quantrill was a multi-sport athlete who excelled at baseball, hockey, and volleyball at Trinity College School.
His high school stats are littered with awards and achievements: MVP in 2011, 2012, and 2013; three-time member of Team Canada 18-U; played in two world championships and a world qualifier in Seoul, Taichung, and Cartagena; threw a perfect game as a senior in his team’s home opener; and much more.
At 18 years old, Cal was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 2013 MLB draft, though he didn’t sign and instead chose to attend college at Stanford University. There, he became their first freshman pitcher to start on opening day since Mike Mussina in 1998. His freshman year featured a 7-5 record, 2.68 ERA, and 98 strikeouts through 18 games.
He followed up with a strong start to his sophomore year going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 20 strikeouts in three games. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to injury and he underwent Tommy John Surgery that spring, officially ending his college baseball career.
Heading into the 2016 MLB draft, Cal was ranked as the number 22 prospect in all of baseball. The San Diego Padres saw an opportunity and drafted him in the first round with the eighth overall pick; he quickly signed with the Friars and played five games with the Arizona Padres.
Quantrill blazed through San Diego’s minor league system, pitching five games with the Tri-City Dust Devils before being promoted to the Fort Wayne TinCaps. He was playing in his first full-season affiliate by the end of August 2016, only two months after being drafted.
Nothing from his minor league career indicated he’d be as effective as he is today. Quantrill finished 2016 with an 0-5 record and 5.11 ERA; he then began 2017 1-5 with the Padres’ former AA affiliate, the San Antonio Missions.
That’s when things took off.
He finished out the 2017 season with the Lake Elsinore Storm, posting a 6-5 record, 3.67 ERA and an impressive 76 strikeouts through 73.2 innings pitched. His performance earned him a trip to the Padres’ 2018 spring training, but he didn’t make the opening day roster.
Instead, he rejoined the Missions before being promoted to the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas, where he went 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA to end the 2018 season.
The Friars once again invited Cal Quantrill to spring training, and yet again he didn’t make the starting roster. He went on to pitch 16 Triple-A games for El Paso, finishing his 2019 minor league season with a 4-2 record, 4.54 ERA, and 1.40 WHIP.
The Padres selected his contract and brought him up to the majors in May 2019, where he made his MLB debut against the Atlanta Braves. He had a so-so outing, tossing 5.2 innings and surrendering two runs off six hits.
Quantrill would then alternate between Triple-A and major league ball four more times until he was recalled in June for good. He’s been in San Diego ever since.
Overall, Cal’s minor league performance was pretty underwhelming considering his current state of play. He finished his minor-league stint with a 4.46 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and 312 strikeouts through 336.2 innings pitched over 69 total games; this resulted in a 20-23 record when all was said and done.
The beginning of his major league career didn’t fare much better. Through his first six starts, Quantrill posted a 5.23 ERA after allowing 18 runs through 31 innings. He carried a 1-2 record at that point, which was enough to relegate him from the starting rotation to the bullpen.
A couple days later, one of our own contributors wrote a post about how Cal deserved to be a starter and should be given another chance. It was a controversial opinion at the time considering his minor league and early-season stats, but it has aged well.
During his four-game run in the bullpen, Quantrill flipped the switch and hasn’t looked back since. In four relief appearances, he allowed only one run off four hits in 5.2 innings pitched including five strikeouts. It looked like Cal might’ve found a permanent spot on the team as a back-end reliever.
The Padres’ thin starting rotation forced their hand, however, and Cal was asked to start once again. There were concerns that he might revert to his early-season self, perhaps exacerbating the problems that had moved him to the pen in the first place.
Turns out those concerns were unfounded.
Quantrill’s quality of play has only continued to develop as a starter, most recently highlighted by a scoreless seven innings pitched with five strikeouts in a 7-1 win against the Colorado Rockies.
His last outing against the Tampa Bay Rays was a bit rougher, walking the first batter he faced then giving up a two-run homer to the second. It was an important moment for the rookie though, as he demonstrated resolve and a short-term memory instead of folding from a bad start. Cal finished his outing with four strikeouts, those two earned runs, and the lone walk through 5.1 IP.
He even notched his first career hit against the Rays on Tuesday afternoon, a two-out game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the second inning.
Since his return to the starting rotation on July 3 (in which he got smoked for three runs off five hits in only 4.1 innings pitched), Quantrill is boasting a 1.86 ERA and 0.879 WHIP. He’s also worth 1.6 bWAR on the season.
While his major league sample size is limited, he’s 100% earned a starting role for the remainder of this year. He should get every opportunity to sustain his success and fight for a roster spot come 2020.
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Sustaining that success is a tall task though.
With a 3.23 ERA but 4.03 FIP, the stats suggest that he’s getting some decent help from his defense, while a strikeout-per-nine-innings rate of 7.29 could definitely be improved.
At the moment, Quantrill is flying under-the-radar in the league but could quickly make his way onto other teams’ scouting reports. Assuming he maintains this type of performance, the front office will need to decide if Cal is a building block or a trade chip moving forward; he could provide value either way, but it’ll be a tough decision to make.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. For now, we can enjoy another Padres pitching prospect who’s raking in the majors and signaling an end to years of misery. Let’s hope he can create some valuable options for the front office come October.
We’re rooting for you, Cal Quantrill.
For complete coverage of the San Diego Padres 2019 season, be sure to visit Friars on Base all season long.