Quintana, 26, previously pitched in the New York Mets and New York Yankees organizations without significant success, but White Sox scouts Daraka Shaheed and Joe Siers watched Jose pitch in the Florida State League and recommended the club sign him. Quintana joined the Sox organization during the 2011-12 offseason and was assigned to Class AA Birmingham.
What did the scouts see in Quintana? Both gave their answers to mlb.com.
"Tools can be similar a lot of times, and when it comes down to it, a lot of guys in the major leagues have similar talent," Shaheed said. "Quintana had some nice tools going forward, but the way he went about his job ... I thought he had growth and had potential to get better."
Siers was equally impressed. "A very poised young man. Professional. He knew how to pitch and work both sides of the plate. Just a good-looking kid."
It all turned around for Quintana on May 7, 2012 when he was promoted to the Sox as the 26th man for a doubleheader against the Indians in Cleveland. The Colombia native made his major-league debut in the first game of the twin bill and impressed everyone. He came on in relief and pitched a masterful 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit while striking out three. Jose was sent back to the Barons after the game, but was back in Chicago later in the month. He earned his first big-league victory on May 25, tossing six innings while giving up just two runs on four hits along with three walks and four strikeouts against the same Indians club.
"Q [as he's fondly called by teammates] is a pitcher with personality and intelligence that knows what to do every time he pitches, doesn't lose his focus and knows how to make the best out of difficult situations," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. "He's a guy with a big heart and loves to compete, to be challenged."
Quintana's 91-mph fastball, 88-mph cutter, 79-mph curveball and 85-mph changeup (per fangraphs.com) have made him one of baseball's most consistent pitchers and always among the top hurlers in quality starts. Despite this consistency, Q has simply been the victim of bad luck. He has recorded a major-league leading number of no decisions since 2012 mainly because of lack of run support. Even though it's another reason Jose is underrated, he looks at it this way:
"In baseball, there are a lot of factors that a pitcher cannot control. For example: fielding a ground ball, fly ball or liner, the batter or a stolen base. It's a team sport, and as a team every one of us go out there every day to play the best we can. Sometimes things don't go the way we want. Some people say it's bad luck, but I say it's baseball. Some games I thank my team for the win, because they're the ones preventing runs and earning the runs necessary to win. Sometimes they can't do it, just like sometimes I can't. Do I want to win more games? Of course I would, who in this sport wouldn't like to win more games? This is a competition and a sport where everyone wants to win."
Quintana chalks it up to the dynamics of baseball, but his teammates still feel bad about his circumstance and are motivated by how he deals with it.
"Many times when he pitches, something happens that prevents him from winning," said teammate Jose Abreu. "Sometimes we don't hit the ball or mess up on defense. It can be frustrating for anyone. However, he's always handled it like it doesn't bother or affect him. His attitude motivates us to overcome our own frustration of not being able to help him win games."
While he may be underrated in the eyes of the media and fans, the White Sox value the talents and efforts of the lefty, resulting in a five-year contract worth $21 million signed this past spring.
"Jose quickly has established himself as a quality major league starting pitcher, and along with Chris Sale, we expect him to be an important piece of our rotation for the foreseeable future," general manager Rick Hahn said at the time. "Jose brings a tremendous work ethic and professionalism to his approach, and he is well respected by his teammates, so we are excited to be able to reward him for what he has accomplished thus far in his career and possibly keep him in a White Sox uniform for the next seven seasons."
Needless to say, signing the new contract was a life-changing event for Jose. "That was one of the most important things that has happened in my career," said Quintana. "With that contract, I can protect my family's future, which is most important to me. Obviously, this contract tells me they want me on the team, and I have a great responsibility. That's why every time I take the field in this jersey, I always pitch the best I can."
His tenacity and pitching acumen make Quintana one of the most effective pitchers in the league. It also makes him a favorite on the White Sox.
"Every time he's pitching, you know there's a good chance to win," said manager Robin Ventura. "Even on a bad day, he finds a way to keep us in the game and increase our chances to win. Plus, his personality on the field gives us the confidence that something good is about to happen, and everyone in the team can feel it. Jose is a special guy."