Tigers ink Campbell out of New Zealand

December 17th, 2021

DETROIT -- The Tigers have never had a player from New Zealand, not even in their farm system, until now. Clayton Campbell, who was born in New Zealand before emerging as a prospect in Australia, signed a Minor League contract last week to join the Detroit organization.

The Tigers haven’t officially announced the signing, but the deal registered on their transactions page last week. Campbell also posted a picture of himself signing the contract at the Tigers’ Spring Training facility.

Others have posted pictures of Campbell in Tigers gear as well.

The signing of the 18-year-old is interesting for an organization that has made occasional forays into the Pacific Rim but doesn’t have a talent pipeline there. Australian-born left-hander Jack O’Laughlin joined the Tigers organization in 2018 and made it to full-season ball in 2021, topping out at High-A West Michigan. Likewise, Sydney-born Zac Shepherd joined the Tigers' system as an 18-year-old in 2014 following two years as a corner outfielder in the Australian winter league, converted to pitching in 2019 and spent the entire 2021 season pitching at West Michigan.

Campbell was an international free agent who reportedly worked out for teams earlier this month. Though he has no Minor League experience, he has played in the U.S. through international amateur tournaments and showcase events. He was a standout two-way player for Australia in its run in the Little League World Series in 2016, throwing a 14-strikeout complete game to beat Curacao. He then represented the Aussies in the Junior League World Series in Taylor, Mich., the next couple years. As a 16-year-old, the right-handed hitter singled in his only at-bat for the Auckland Tuatara in the Australian Baseball League in 2019-20. He’s also on the roster of Baseball New Zealand’s under-18 national team.

Though the six-foot, 209-pound Campbell is listed as a third baseman, he also has extensive catching experience.

The Tigers have assigned Campbell to one of their rookie-level teams in the short-season Florida Complex League, based at their Spring Training complex in Lakeland. Like many teenage signings, Campbell has a long path ahead of him. Still, even getting to this point is a relative feat. No New Zealand-born player has reached the Major Leagues, and just a few have played in the Minors, according to baseball-reference. Scott Campbell, no relation, played at Triple-A as an infielder in the Blue Jays' system after Toronto drafted him in the 10th round in 2009 out of Gonzaga University.