Over the course of his young career, seeing Roman Quinn play has been like seeing a meteor shower: it’s impressive when it happens, but it’s rare.
After teasing his talent in a 15-game debut for the Philadelphia Phillies at the conclusion of the 2016 season, Quinn didn’t appear in a single major league game in 2017. It certainly wasn’t because the Phillies were too deep with young outfielders to give Quinn a more extended look – Michael Saunders, Cameron Perkins, Daniel Nava, Howie Kendrick and Hyun Soo Kim all got starts in the outfield. Pete Mackanin’s 2017 Phillies would have loved to have Quinn at their disposal, but Quinn didn’t play a single game after the month of May because of an injury to his left (non-throwing) elbow.
With the 25-year-old healthy currently – and the Phillies struggling to generate offense – Quinn has started seven of the team’s last 12 games in either center field or right field. He’s leading off and playing center field Wednesday evening, as the Phillies look to avoid being swept by the Washington Nationals. This morning, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler joined Al Morganti on SportsRadio 94 WIP and suggested Quinn may start tonight, while also heaping praise on him:
“He’ll likely start against Gio Gonzalez tonight (Wednesday) – a left-handed pitcher – who kinds of gives us the opportunity to see Quinn from the right side, he’s got some power from that side. He’s as talented and as physically gifted as anyone on our roster and the speed is second to nobody in baseball.”
In 60 at-bats at the major league level in 2018, Quinn is hitting .350 with two triples, five stolen bases and a 3.9 offensive WAR. Of course, his talent has never been in question. His ability to stay on the field has been.
Quinn likely would have been with the 2018 Phillies in some capacity prior to late July if he was available. Unfortunately for him (and for the Phillies), Quinn had surgery on his right middle finger to repair a torn ligament in mid-May. By the team he was through rehabbing, it was just prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. This comes after playing just 45 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley the entire 2017 season. He missed over a month during the summer of 2016. Even last weekend, he tweaked a hamstring.
When healthy, there’s little question that Quinn is a major league talent. Frankly, there’s little question if he’s a starting major league talent. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Quinn is that when he’s healthy, he hasn’t had to adjust to a new normal. He comes back as talented and lightning quick as he ever was after each injury. Many athletes that deal with the amount of injuries that Quinn has become shells of their former selves, usually through no fault of their own. Not Quinn. Kapler’s point about him being as talented as any player on the Phillies roster may be slightly exaggerated – see: Nola, Aaron – but for a team with quite a few talented young pieces (Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Scott Kingery), Quinn has managed to push his way into the lineup on a rather frequent basis since returning to the major league level.
The difficult part will come this offseason. It’s been hard to disagree with Quinn pushing Williams or Odubel Herrera for playing time in August of 2018. But is Matt Klentak’s front-office willing to bet that Quinn will be healthy in April of 2019? What about August of 2019? The Phillies can plan for Quinn to start right now because he’s healthy. But it would be hard to ever enter the season with him as a starting outfielder, because he hasn’t proven to be able to stay healthy, despite his enormous potential.
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