Visalia, California —— Few players were more excited to turn the calendar to 2018 than Heath Quinn.
The San Francisco Giants outfield prospect from Samford University lost more than half of his 2017 season to two long stints on the disabled list, and when he was healthy, he never found a rhythm at the plate, finishing the year with High-A San Jose hitting a paltry 228/.290/.371/.661 in 272 at-bats across just 75 games.
Held back from any extra offensive work a year ago by a broken hand, Quinn never found a rhythm at the plate his first time through with San Jose. So this past offseason, the Giants asked him to show up for fall instructional league in Scottsdale, Arizona to rack up some at-bats there in the hopes it would prepare Quinn properly for 2018.
And prepare him, it did.
Heath Quinn enters play on Monday leading the San Jose Giants in hitting, with a robust .324/.388/.530/.918 slash line that would have him sitting at the top of the California League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Good health has in this case proven to be good wealth for Quinn, as the outfielder is hitting everything to lead an otherwise middling San Jose lineup. In turn, he’s also seeing his prospect status rise once again thanks to his consistently strong offensive production this summer.
“Going to instructs, getting those at-bats back and seeing more pitches, I think that really helped spring me forward into this year,” Quinn told me late last week before a Giants road game in Visalia, trying to explain his productive summer. “And it was really nice to break camp with a team this year. It was nice to actually start the season on day one. But this is me in a rhythm. You are finally seeing what it’s like for me to hit in a rhythm. I just couldn’t get in one last year, and I really wasn’t hitting the ball that well. But now, I’ve been trying to take it one at-bat at a time and not worry too much about the result, just work hard and see what happens.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been hiccups along the way, of course. A year ago, Heath Quinn never quite felt the dog days of August, considering he only played 75 games and started his season practically in June. Now, having been with San Jose since day one back in early April, Quinn’s strength and stamina will be tested in what is effectively his first shot at a full-season league as the calendar soon turns to August and the hot sun bears down on the Cal League just a little bit more. That’ll be a big test, then, to see if the San Francisco Giants prospect can carry his torrid offensive production all the way through game 140.
“It’s a grind out here,” he admitted. “You have to keep yourself mentally prepared every day, keep yourself fresh. I’ve found you really have to watch what you eat. You have to eat good food on the road. That’s tough sometimes, though; that’s a lot easier said than done.”
Ironically, 2018 hasn’t been injury free for Heath Quinn, either — he just better knows how to manage time away from the game. The outfielder sustained a minor hamstring injury a few weeks ago, and it landed him on the disabled list for the better part of a month. There was one big difference here, though: unlike with his hand injury a season ago, Quinn was able to take batting practice while nursing the hamstring. In fact, he credits that for why he’s been able to sustain his batting average so far above .300 for so long in the Cal League — where, would he qualify for it with enough at-bats, he’d currently be tied for first place in the league with a surging .324 average.
“The hamstring injury was more annoying that anything, it kept pestering me, and I really just had to take some time to let that heal,” Quinn said. “I’m very thankful I got to keep hitting while my hamstring was hurt. That was big. With my hand injury [last year] I couldn’t hold a bat or anything, so it automatically made things easier this time around.”
Things have indeed been easer — and far more productive. And for the San Francisco Giants, who have long waited to see this come to fruition, it appears the real, healthy Heath Quinn may just be scratching the surface of what’s to come.
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