Roman Quinn is a great example of how frustrating it can be to watch highly-talented prospects succumb to injury after injury. If he ever puts together a full season, he could become a centerpiece in the Philadelphia Phillies lineup.
A second-round pick in 2011 out of Port St. Joe High School (Port St. Joe, FL), Quinn passed up a scholarship to play quarterback for Florida State to sign with Philadelphia for $775,000. He has fit the profile of a table-setting, base-thieving leadoff man since his first pro season with Low-A Williamsport. At nineteen years old in 2012, Quinn slashed .281/.370/.408 in 66 games with the Crosscutters, swiping 30 bags while swatting 21 XBH, eleven of which were triples.
Adding to the challenge of adjusting to pro-level baseball as a teenager, he also had to get used to playing shortstop and learning to switch-hit on a full-time basis. Quinn was a center fielder in high school, which was a natural fit for his top-of-the-scale speed.
Quinn was bumped up to full-season Class-A in 2013, playing in 67 games with Lakewood. While he continued to swipe bags at a rapid pace (32 in 67 games), his season was ended when a fastball broke his right wrist on June 24th. His speed continued to draw attention, but he again struggled with the nuances of playing shortstop (31 errors in 66 games at short).
A wRC+ of 97 could certainly have been worse, considering his 109-point drop in OPS (.778 in 2012; .669 in 2013). A ruptured Achilles tendon in November added insult to literal injury, and when combined with the 2013 drafting of J.P. Crawford, Quinn saw his time at short come to an end.
Fortunately, Quinn didn’t end up losing a great deal of speed or mobility from the Achilles tear, and his move to center field went as well as could be expected for someone who had not played there in the past few years.
The 2014 season saw Quinn moved up yet again, this time to High-A Clearwater. Again, he stole 32 bases, bumping up his slash line while adjusting to a more-advanced league and coming off a serious leg injury (.257/.343/.370 in 88 games). His BB and K % remained stable, as they had been since his first season (9.4 BB%, 20.9 K%), and his wRC+ of 108 was more than adequate considering the aforementioned challenges.
The Phillies kept Quinn moving in 2015, sending him to the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils. This time, it was a torn left quadriceps muscle that limited his on-field time to 58 games. A bloated .360 BABIP certainly boosted his numbers, but his K rate dropped significantly (16.3% in 232 AB).
2016 saw Quinn repeating a level for the first time, as he was sent back to Reading. Once again, the injury bug was waiting to bite. This time around, it was an oblique strain. Quinn was approximately career-normal in terms of walks and strikeouts, drawing 30 walks while going down on strikes 68 times. Again, he reached the 30-steal mark, finishing with 31 in 71 games.
A wRC+ of 125 was no surprise for someone repeating the level, playing in a hitter’s park, but by now he had shown the ability to make contact on a regular basis and leg out enough XBH to remain reasonably productive. It earned him a call-up to Philadelphia, as he made his MLB debut @ Washington on September 11th, going 0-4 with a walk in the #2 slot of the order. He picked up his 1st MLB hit, extra-base hit, RBI, and steal, the next day at home vs. Pittsburgh. In fifteen games with Philly, Quinn had six multi-hit games, finishing his first stint in the big leagues with 15 hits, four doubles, 10 runs scored, six RBI, and five steals.
Unfortunately the 2017 season was nearly a total bust, as Quinn missed four months with an injured ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow.
Quinn’s biggest, and perhaps only, significant roadblock has been his health. Counting winter league, Quinn played in a career-high 112 games in 2014. He played in 92 games in 2016 between Double-A, rookie-level, and the majors.
If he can ever stay healthy, the ability to make consistent contact, even with little chance that he will develop more than fringe-average power, will help to carry him to the big leagues for good. He’s more than a bat, however, as he has taken very well to center field and is a true 80 runner on the scouting scale, even after multiple leg injuries and the Achilles tear in 2013. His line-drive % has improved since his first season, but took a step back from the 20.4% he posted in 71 games with Reading in 2016.
He has typically drawn enough walks to offset his strikeout totals, with a 0.43 BB/K ratio for his career, thus far. In 45 games with Lehigh Valley in 2017, Quinn’s pull percentage of 45.3% was roughly in line with his career average, and he managed to put 54% of batted balls on the ground to best utilize his speed. Over time, he should learn to use the gaps and pile up extra-base hits frequently at the MLB level.
In the field, Quinn is a plus defender in center, with adequate arm strength for the position. He generally takes efficient routes on fly balls, and gets to the ball quickly (obviously). Whether or not he could handle 100+ games in the outfield in a single season remains to be seen, as he has been prone to leg injuries in the past.
Even if he never manages to shake the injury bug, his floor is pretty high as a 4th outfielder who provides plenty of doubles and steals off the bench. If he can remain healthy for a full year, Quinn would be an excellent fit as a #2 hitter or a lead-off man, with above-average batting averages and OBP totals (probably light on the SLG%), and could easily top 40 steals in a full MLB season. Keeping off the DL is the only major obstacle he now faces.