What to expect from Campusano in MLB

September 5th, 2020

Another Padres top prospect is heading to the Major Leagues as the team called up 21-year-old catcher Luis Campusano, MLB Pipeline’s No. 52 overall prospect, ahead of Friday night’s game in Oakland.

The first catcher taken in the 2017 Draft, when the Padres selected him in the second round (No. 39 overall) and then signed him for $1.3 million, Campusano has since developed into baseball’s fourth-best catching prospect and had a big up arrow next to his name going into the 2020 season.

The natural hitting ability that now has Campusano, San Diego’s No. 4 prospect, in the big leagues was evident early in his career.

After slashing .269/.344/.388 with four homers during his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, Campusano moved up to Class A Fort Wayne in 2018 and produced a .288/.345/.365 line with three home runs and 40 RBIs before a concussion prematurely ended his campaign in early August after just 70 games, 38 of which he started behind the plate.

But Campusano’s setback didn’t stop the Padres from assigning him to Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore to open 2019, and he responded to the team’s challenge by taking home co-MVP honors in the California League, winning the circuit batting title with a .325 average while finishing second in both OPS (.906) and RBIs (81) in his age-20 season. More important, Campusano’s power potential started to show, with the right-handed hitter setting career highs in both home runs (15) and doubles (31) en route to amassing 215 total bases.

As a non-roster invitee to big league camp this spring, Campusano went 1-for-4 while appearing in two games before the club optioned him to Minor League camp. He was a standout in Summer Camp, too, with club officials noting that he looked more agile and athletic after dropping some weight during the hiatus. 

While it’s hard to say with any certainly how much time Campusano will see behind the plate after the team acquired catchers Austin Nola and Jason Castro at this year’s Trade Deadline -- former top catching prospect Francisco Mejia is currently on the injured list with a left thumb contusion -- the fact that the Padres are calling him up now, with the club poised for its first postseason berth since 2006, indicates that they believe his bat can be a difference-maker in their lineup.

Here's our breakdown of Campusano’s tools on the 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 represents big league average ability:

Hit (55): As previously alluded to, Campusano has a knack for finding the barrel and making hard contact. He consistently impacts the ball from the right side of the plate, using a combination of bat speed, physical strength and a line-drive-producing swing. His ability to keep the barrel in the hitting zone for an extended period of time enables him to hit to all fields, and scouts like his chances of becoming at least an above-average hitter, especially after he demonstrated a tighter, more advanced approach in 2019, compiling 52 walks (10.7 percent walk rate) against 57 strikeouts (11.7 percent strikeout rate) in 487 trips to the plate.

Power (55): Campusano is still learning how to leverage his swing and drive the ball in the air, but the early returns point to future above-average game power as he continues to get stronger. And while his plus raw power is evident when he connects to his pull-side, Campusano also can drive the ball out of the park from line to line.

Run (30): Campusano isn’t a base-clogger because he’s athletic and runs better than most backstops, though, on paper, his speed grades out as below average.

Arm (60): Campusano's plus, accurate arm is a weapon for him behind the plate, though his overall catch-and-throw skills still require further refinement. He threw out 22.7 percent of basestealers in 2019, bringing his career mark to 21 percent (40 of 195).

Field (50): Campusano has the requisite athleticism and tools to stick behind the plate long term. He earns high marks for both his blocking and agility, and club officials are quick to point out the gains he's made as a receiver since signing. His blocking and receiving skills were noticeably improved during San Diego’s Summer Camp, and Campusano continued to make strides with his defense while stationed at San Diego’s alternate site at the University of San Diego.