Catching prospects are difficult to nail down.
If their bat progresses faster than their defense, teams will bring them up to help out their offense and just forget putting in the work to see if they can actually catch in the show (think Kyle Schwarber/Bryce Harper). If the bat doesn’t come along fast enough, they won’t get promoted fast enough to even be a catcher by the time they hit the show because catchers have such a short shelflife, or just as bad, they’ll be promoted anyway and just hope the bat develops against literally the toughest pitching in the world. Even worse, there is whatever the Mariners did with Mike Zunino.
The demands of the catcher position are not comparable to other positions. They touch the ball almost every pitch, call pitches and have to frame them to fool umpires. Also, they are crouching for two hours every night. When you add hitting into the equation, it’s amazing there are any all-around catchers. It makes sense that other than this season, catcher has been a wasteland in dynasty leagues for about five years.
All this is to say that when picking catchers, it is important to know one of two things: either (1) the bat is so good it won’t matter if your prospect gets moved to 1B or the OF, or (2) there is a good chance he’ll remain at catcher. Ideally, you want both of these, but you can count on two hands the number of catchers that fit that bill in the past 10 years.
Now that I’ve scared you away from catchers, I want to talk to you about one catcher who shouldn’t: Luis Campusano.
Taken out of high school by the Padres in the 2nd round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Campusano was considered a bat-first catcher with an above-average arm who needed work behind the plate. The bat wasn’t perceived as being so advanced that Campusano would be on some sort of fast track — catching prospects who have that profile are picked at the beginning of the first round. Instead, he was viewed as a catcher with plus power and questions about his hit tool. This is important because it might what makes him successful.
One thing is beginning to become obvious, Campusano will be a bat-first catcher, but not because of poor defense. He turns 21 next month and at the end of this season, he’ll have spent an entire year in Single-A and High-A despite glowing results. His defense is coming along. At 6-0 and 200 pounds, he’s nearly the ideal size for a catcher. So far Campusano has thrown out roughly 20% of would-be base-stealers. It’s not great but that percentage is increasing. On days off, he’s DHing, which has been about 22 out of 90 games or 25%.
Campusano DHs because he might be the best bat on the Lake Elsinore Storm:
Even before the draft, Campusano’s power was tagged with a plus grade. What wasn’t as clear was just how well he could make contact and how patient he would be, both of which are starting to look like strengths. He’s more athletic than most thought with better bat control, which has resulted in a .288 average in Single-A in 2018 and a .322 average this season. The approach is also starting to really take off. This season he’s almost doubled his walk rate from 6.69% to 10.55% while dropping three points off his K rate (12.14%, down from 15.14%).
Campusano will likely remain in High-A to finish 2019 and begin 2020 in Double-A where he will see more advanced pitching both at the plate and behind it. Now would be the time to scoop him up. If he continues to improve on both sides of the plate, he will start to jump onto top 100 prospect lists by June of 2020. San Diego needs a catcher too, with Francisco Mejia being a bust and the Padres wanting to compete soon, Campusano could be up in the majors at the end of next year. Ideally, even if he keeps producing without any real hiccups, I’d like to see him spend at least half a season each in Double-A and Triple-A. That would put him at around 23 when he makes his MLB debut, which is still young for a catcher and gives him ample time to round out his entire game before putting it to the test.
Where would I rank him among catching prospects? He’s probably 8-10 right now. My guess is there is more power here too. The ability to hit 20-25 homers is where I peg him.