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Carlos Quentin retires; what might have been?

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Carlos Quentin
Carlos Quentin
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Veteran outfielder Carlos Quentin announced his retirement from Major League Baseball this past week. He's only 32 years old but it has been obvious for a while that years of injuries robbed Quentin of his skills. He was an excellent prospect a decade ago and had many moments of major league success until his health got in the way.

Carlos Quentin was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the first round in 2003, 29th overall, out of Stanford University. He was an excellent player in college, hitting .396/.494/.630 with 12 homers, 10 steals and a 36/28 BB/K ratio his junior year. There were no worries about the power-robbing Stanford swing in his case. Indeed, he could have gone 10-15 slots earlier on draft day, but an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery hurt his stock and kept him from playing pro ball right away.

His college performance and the scouting reports were impressive enough that I gave him a Grade B- in the 2004 book despite the injury. I really liked his power potential and general offensive skills.

Quentin began 2004 in the California League, hitting .310/.428/.562 in 65 games for Lancaster. Promoted to Double-A at mid-season, he hit .357/.443/.533 in 60 games for El Paso. I saw him play late in the season and was extremely impressed: he had a short swing that produced power to all fields, he controlled the strike zone well, he didn't strike out much, and he had considerable athleticism. Although a big guy, he wasn't a slug at all and had more mobility and grace than expected. He rated a Grade A- in the 2005 book and ranked as the Number Nine hitting prospect overall.

Assigned to Triple-A in 2005, Quentin hit .301/.422/.520 with 72 walks and just 71 strikeouts in 452 at-bats for Tucson. The PCL and Tucson boosted his production, but given his excellent plate discipline and good health, I was very confident in him and gave him a straight Grade A entering 2006, ranked sixth overall among hitters. I loved the bat and felt his other tools were underrated.

Quentin did not thrive immediately. He split 2006 and 2007 between Tucson and the Diamondbacks, playing well in Triple-A (including a .348/.430/.572 run in '07) but never quite establishing himself in the majors. He was eventually traded to the Chicago White Sox for Chris Carter.

The change of scenery unlocked his bat and he exploded in 2008, hitting .288/.394/.571 with 36 homers, 100 RBI, 66 walks, 80 strikeouts in 480 at-bats, 4.7 fWAR, and a slot in the American League All Star Team. He was 25 years old and looked for all the world like one of the rising stars in baseball. The only negative was a wrist injury (self-inflicted, he slammed his hand in frustration after a foul ball)  that cost him most of September, which unfortunately was a herald of things to come.

Carlos Quentin

Carlos Quentin, photo by Don Smith, Getty Images

You know what happened from here. 2008 was Quentin's peak season, mainly due to injuries. Although he remained a productive home run hitter, averaging 30 homers per 162 games in his career, he was persistently hampered by physical problems including the fractured wrist at the end of 2008, plantar fasciitis in 2009, a shoulder injury in 2011, a knee injury in 2012 and a rebound knee injury in 2013.

His defense deteriorated quickly due to the physical issues and although he remained an effective hitter (posting a 145 wRC+ in 2012-2013) he just couldn't stay in the lineup. He had solid half-seasons with the Padres in '12 and '13 but couldn't manage more than 86 games per year. In 2014 the hitting skills vanished too.

Overall, Quentin hit .252/.347/.484 with 122 wRC+ and a career fWAR of 10.2. Sim Score comparables include Jeromy Burnitz, Henry Rodriguez, Tony Conigliario, Gus Zernial, Luke Scott, Jay Gibbons, Craig Monroe, Brad Hawpe, Russ Branyan, and Nick Esasky. Among players with a similar amount of playing time, Quentin's fWAR peers include Dave Roberts (10.3), Dan Ford (10.3), Jeff Leonard (10.1), Steve Henderson (10.1), Michael Tucker (10.0), and John Lowenstein (9.9).

These were all players with value in their own way but not broad-spectrum stars.

Overall, the injuries made Quentin's overall career a disappointment, but when healthy he did show the kind of hitting talent that was evident in college and the minors. This is very much a "what might have been" case.