The Chicago White Sox could open spring training with Hector Santiago and Jose Quintana fighting for the No. 5 spot in their starting rotation. If that were to be the case for the White Sox, the early edge would have to go to Santiago.
There is little doubt that they have both earned a shot, but Santiago (2-0, 1.86 ERA in four starts last year) is a better fit as the fifth starter.
To be sure, Quintana (6-6, 3.76 ERA in 23 starts) impressed after being thrust into the rotation following the season-ending injury John Danks suffered, but Santiago has better stuff.
To start, Santiago has more pitches in his repertoire, and not just because he can throw a screwball.
According to FanGraphs.com (all stats cited courtesy of FanGraphs.com), Santiago throws both a sinker and split-finger fastball while Quintana does not. Factor in the ability to throw a cut fastball more frequently and Santiago has the edge on pitch selection.
Velocity is also in Santiago’s favor.
His combined fastball average was 92.8 mph, which is almost exactly what his sinker clocked in at. That type of consistent velocity improves the effectiveness of both the sinker and splitter he throws.
Seeing as how Quintana does not throw a sinker or the splitter, the 90.1 mph fastball he throws is just that—a 90.1 mph fastball.
To make matters worse for Quintana, the difference in velocity between his fastball and changeup is less than five MPH. Santiago on the other hand has the league average 10 mph drop off between his fastball (92.8) and changeup (82.4).
Santiago’s command of pitch velocity makes his delivery that much more deceptive, especially when he is ahead in the count. The edge in measurable categories decidedly goes to Santiago.
In all fairness, stuff is not the only thing that will matter to manager Robin Ventura.
Along those lines, Santiago, through his own admission, must be able to throw strikes more consistently if he wants to take advantage of his plus pitches. He does, however, have an edge over Quintana at this point going into spring training next year for the White Sox.
Now, whether or not Santiago is competing with Quintana for the fifth spot in the White Sox rotation behind Gavin Floyd is to be determined. After all, Floyd is the subject of some intense trade speculation, but that is beside the point.
Chuck Fox, the White Sox area scout who first saw Santiago, told the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales last April that the young pitcher was “a diamond in the rough” and all he needed was “some time to develop.”
Santiago has most certainly done that, and going into next season, he is the better option to become the team’s No. 5 starter.