Prospect Porn Star: Roman Candle Quinn

Roman Candle Quinn, August 2012, Williamsport, PA - Wet Luzinski

The first of an occasional series looking at the Phillies' most intriguing prospects through awkwardly nerdy pizza delivery guy glasses.

Like a lot of armchair prospect-heads, it only took me a couple of games in Williamsport last year to be an ardent fan of the Phillies' 19-year-old shortstop prospect, Roman Quinn. Intrigued by the daily boxscore roundups by the yeoman service of my colleague taco pal and the tweets, notes, and game stories written by the Williamsport Sun-Gazette's Mitch Rupert, I had to see Quinn with my own eyes. I had to follow him myself.

I had been mostly looking forward to seeing Quinn's teammate, Larry "Fudgie" Greene Jr., but by the time I got up to see the Crosscutters in August, Quinn was the story. He was an incandescent presence on the diamond, and would go on to lead the New York-Penn League in triples (11; next closest player hit 6) and stolen bases (30; next closest was 24), and finished the season with a .281/.408/.778 (avg/slg/ops). Plenty of good stuff was written about him in the offseason, perhaps the best by Fangraphs' Mike Newman here and (most notably) here, where Newman compared him favorably to stolen base überprospect Billy Hamilton.

For sure, he's not perfect and not nearly done (27 errors in 302 chances at shortstop give plenty of people edgy about the Phillies fielding experiment here), but in a season where there was almost nothing but slumpy torpor in South Philadelphia, Quinn was a happening. Opposing defenses would visibly tense when he came to the plate. A developing switch hitter, Quinn showed ability to hit gap power; his speed is such that he's midway between second and third before the ball's delivered from the retrieving outfielder to the cutoff man. On my return trip to Williamsport on September 1, I saw him hit his only home run of the season, a shot to right field in the cavernous Bowman Field. Even in the low minors, he's the guy that otherwise disinterested fans elbow each other to watch. Stuff happens. There's a buzz. For fans located around Philadelphia in 2013, make the trip to Lakewood to see the show.

The early comps on Quinn are easy; with Juan Pierre in left field for the Phillies last year, it was as though we were looking at career bookends; given Quinn's gap power and very slight frame, he could wind up developing power like Rickey Henderson or Jimmy Rollins. With Hamilton about to run wild for the Reds, the art of the stolen base may be once again coming into fashion again, not unlike the early 1980s when players like Henderson, Vince Coleman, Tim Raines and Delino Deshields blazed around the AstroTurf infields of the major leagues. Sabremetric qvetching about the value of stolen bases aside, I'm looking forward to a new wave of speedsters, if for no other reason to keep the flames of this debate burning.

This week, my third-grade son put together a project for African-American History Month on Cool Papa Bell, and beyond finding cool stuff like artist Will Johnson's wonderful folk-art painting, it got me thinking about the particular style of player Bell was, that generationally gets passed along to high-kinetic players like Henderson, Rollins, Pierre and now Quinn, which I shorthand as "scat" ballplayers. Slight guys, speedy, high contact, and durable as hell (which, granted, we don't know about Quinn yet) - who make entire infields sweat. The style has its place in the game.

It's not completely fair or accurate to label and nest this type of player within one particular racial or ethic group, although it's a fair observation that African American players on the scat style that I believe is primarily rooted in the history of the Negro Leagues and its dissolution and integration with the major leagues. This, of course, is a rule of thumb more than an iron-clad policy statement, as there are always the Scott Podsedniks and Ichiro Suzukis of the world who are ever at it to confound broad-brush simplicity. The wider point, however, is that Quinn and players like him matter more to baseball than just as an heir apparent to Jimmy Rollins. The scat style of baseball rattles like a skeleton ghost in baseball's closet, and I hope that players like Quinn and Hamilton continue to bring it out each game to hide it in plain view in the night sky.

R&B Soul Mod - Scat Man Crothers - Golly Zonk! (via TheWorldOfCitrine)


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