Baseball Prospect Journal

Nick Quintana poised to rebound in Connecticut

Nick Quintana Associated Press

When things are going well for a baseball player, the belief is that their success will never cease. But when a player struggles in a new surrounding, the game becomes a humbling experience. 

Nick Quintana, the Detroit Tigers second-round pick in the 2019 MLB draft, went through the latter feeling. After initial struggles in his pro debut in Low-A with the West Michigan White Caps, he’s prepared to recapture his promise with the New York-Penn League’s Connecticut Tigers 

“It is the name of the game. These things happen all of the time,” Quintana said regarding his demotion. “Obviously, I was a little upset at first. I get it because my brother (former Brewers prospect Zach Quintana) went through it and teammates that went through it as well, but it is the business of the game. I have to take the opportunity I have at Connecticut and run with it.

“When you are taken in a certain round all of these outside people and media have all of these expectations for you, and sometimes it does get to you. Sometimes you read what people say, and sometimes you like it, and sometimes you don’t. It can get to you, but from my experience, I try not to let the expectations get to me and just go out and perform.”

Initially drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2016 draft, Quintana opted to attend the University of Arizona, and within two seasons he became one of the top hitters in the Pac-12 Conference. 

He recorded a 1.005 OPS with 55 RBIs during his sophomore season with a greater tendency to make hard contact and translate his hits into doubles and home runs. The Arizona baseball program underwent a renaissance of its own under head coach Jay Johnson, who led to the school to the College World Series in his first year at the helm.

“Jay and all the coaches at Arizona are first-class people,” Quintana said. “From my experience and my point of view, they helped me become the player I am today. Also the player I was at that school based on the freedom they gave us to be ourselves. That ultimately helped us develop into the players that we are and strive to be in the future.”

The performances of Quintana and teammate Cameron Cannon fortified the left side of the Arizona infield at the plate and in the field. Each player had breakout seasons last spring. Quintana, in particular, led the Pac-12 with 77 RBIs and made his first Pac-12 All-Conference team.

“I look at that season as my last season at Arizona since I was going into the draft,” Quintana said. “I looked at a lot of the seasons previous guys had in pro ball, and I just didn’t want to have a lot of external pressures on myself in terms of the draft. I didn’t start off the season very hot, but I turned it around throughout the remainder of the season.

“The only thing I wanted to do was help my team win. We had a lot of pitching issues and losing a lot of one-run ballgames and games late, so for me, it was about helping our team win. That ultimately helped me play my best baseball, and just have fun and be myself. It was a really fun year, and it got me where I am right now.”

He also found himself ranked in the top 10 in every significant offensive category after appearing on the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list. Playing alongside Cannon and future Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Matt Frazier was also beneficial to Quintana’s auspicious junior season both on and off the field.

“They are great guys. We lived with each other each of the last two years,” Quintana said. “We have been roommates and really close friends. I was very happy to see those guys get drafted and being called. The bonds we created and the friendships that we created at Arizona is more than just baseball itself. They are doing very well, and I am happy for them.”

The Tigers, eager to see Quintana replicate his collegiate promise, assigned him to their full season Class A affiliate in West Michigan. While most organizations have their recent prospects begin their pro careers in rookie ball or the New York Penn-League, the Tigers believe that recently drafted position players like Quintana, Andre Lipcius or Kody Clemens can seamlessly adapt to a professional career at a higher level. 

“The pitching was very similar to what I faced in Arizona. The biggest difference is the higher velocity consistently from every guy out of the pen and starting,” Quintana said. “The more I saw that higher velocity, the more I got used to it. Playing at West Michigan was a great experience for me, but right now I’m with Connecticut. I want to do whatever it takes to help this team win, and I don’t see why I can’t do that.”

For Quintana, the learning curve proved steeper after a promising start in June. He looked to alter his hitting approach by taking the ball to the opposite field, but couldn’t match his past results. His struggles lingered and he began to pile up errors for the first time by rushing his throws. Quintana spent time working with Western Michigan manager Lance Parrish, an eight-time All-Star, on overcoming his recent challenges.

“He’s a great coach, but he’s a great person,” Quintana said of Parrish. “With the time that I have spent with the team and spent around him, I couldn’t have asked for more. He is a first-class guy, and he wished me the best while I was up there in West Michigan whether I was doing good or I was doing bad. He gets that everybody goes through ups and downs and was one hundred percent supportive of me. He was a great coach to play under to begin my pro career.”

Entering the draft, Quintana projected as a right-handed hitter who generated power to his pull field with a slight leg kick. Quick wrists through the zone enable Quintana to lace the ball into the gaps and amass extra-base hits. 

While he’s shown the ability to make hard contact, he’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts when he gets into deep counts. Quintana possesses a sharp throwing arm at third base and has an instinctive defensive mentality.

“I try to be as calm and collective as I can be on the field,” Quintana said. “When I take things too seriously and put too much expectations on myself, I falter. This year I’m working on being consistent in all facets of my game, including offense and defense. I am in my first two months of professional baseball, so I’m not trying to overdo things. It’s a lifetime experience that not many people can say that they have done.

“I’m just trying to put as in much work as I can. Constant repetition and muscle memory all comes back at one point or another. You constantly have to learn in order to get better on the field every single day. The work that you put in will ultimately lead to the results on the field.”

Playing in the New York-Penn League with Connecticut may help Quintana rediscover his past form and refresh his mindset. Often when players do not achieve the success they initially anticipate, they begin to fixate on the result rather than the particular moment. 

Quintana can reassess his approach benefit from facing similar competition to when he played in the Pac-12. A strong finish will also help him gain some confidence heading in the offseason and a future stint at Western Michigan. 

“I’m just trying to control what I can and put the barrel on the baseball and make plays for the pitchers and for the team,” he said. “Ultimately it is about being the best that I can be at the moment. After the season, most of us go to instructional leagues, and we work on specific things. For now, I’m just trying to do the best that I can and help out the team.”

On Aug. 8, 2019, Quintana played his first game with the Connecticut Tigers and collected two hits in four at-bats. He pulled the ball to the left side of the field in each plate appearance and fielded his position cleanly. An encouraging debut in the New York-Penn League is a step in the right direction for a player that the organization has high hopes for in the coming years.

“I was very excited to get here because I know a lot of the players on the team,” Quintana said. “I played with them in high school showcases. It was exciting to play here and see the energy that the guys had in the dugout and the coaching staff. It was different scenery and a different team, and it was it was a fun experience for me.”

Video of Nick Quintana

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