Arizona third baseman Nick Quintana led the Pacific-12 Conference with 77 RBIs this season, while his 15 home runs and .626 slugging percentage each ranked seventh. That kind of power production made him attractive to the Tigers, who drafted him in the second round.
Scouts loved Quintana’s power but also fixated on another number when evaluating the righthanded hitter: a 20 percent strikeout rate. They wondered if his swing-and-miss rate would dampen his ability to hit for average in pro ball.
Regardless, the Tigers quickly signed Quintana and pushed him directly to low Class A West Michigan, where he started slowly through 27 games, batting .215/.284/.301 with one home run and 31 strikeouts.
For Quintana, learning the ins and outs of pro pitching in the Midwest League was a challenge both mentally and physically.
“I’ve always felt that I could learn from whether I succeed or whether I fail. There’s always something to learn,” Quintana said. “If I see velocity, I say, ‘Okay, just start (my swing) a little earlier.’ Just little small details.”
In his transition from Hi Corbett Field in Tucson to Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids, Mich., Quintana is getting back to what he knows, but doing it in new surroundings.
“I’m still getting my feet wet, still getting comfortable with everything,” Quintana said. “Hi Corbett (Field) holds about 10,000 people, and my first two years (at Arizona) I would say it averaged from 3,000 to 6,000 people every game. It definitely helped me get used to playing in front of a big crowd.”
Quintana plays third base every day for West Michigan and as with hitting, he was rediscovering the hot corner at a new level. That adjustment had resulted in nine errors and an .868 fielding percentage, but Quintana wasn’t deterred.
“Defense is just like riding a bike,” Quintana said. “You take a few reps and everything just comes back.”
As Quintana gets settled, all eyes remain focused on his bat and the type of offensive production he might one day deliver.
— Nick Quintana’s older brother Zach Quintana, a righthander, was drafted by the Brewers out of high school in the third round in 2012. He reached high Class A before retiring.
— Double-A Erie righthander Spenser Watkins came within one strike of throwing a nine-inning no-hitter. A 30th-round pick in 2014, he fired off 8.2 scoreless frames, allowing one hit, walking three and striking out a season-high eight.
— The Tigers sought impact bats in the 2019 draft, and so far first-rounder Riley Greene had delivered as advertised. The fifth overall pick out of high school, Greene tore through the Gulf Coast League with a 1.036 OPS in nine games to earn a promotion to short-season Connecticut. He continued to rake as one of the youngest players in the New York-Penn League.