When scouting at the lower levels, examples of “stuff” explaining statistics is pure prospect gold. In the case of Albert Campos, few pitchers have had repertoires which have correlated so closely to statistical strengths and weaknesses from a scouting perspective. As entertaining as a scouts versus statisticians “Moneyball” death match would be, Campos is a prime example of the synergy between the two and how using the numbers to support what the eyes see make for stronger scouting reports.
Video after the jump
In terms of build, Campos resembles Michael Pineda, as his lower half is significantly larger and more developed than his upper body. This leaves Campos with additional room to add size at full physical maturity. This, combined with arm-heavy pitching mechanics, allows one to ponder Campos’ ability to add velocity with a more polished delivery. And while the potential for this is apparent, his present mechanical flaws and “undisclosed injury” which ended his 2011 season before July 4th leaves me wondering if Campos is racing against the serious injury clock. When scouting a pitcher, I can’t help but cringe whenever max arm effort is combined with landing on a stiff front leg cutting off the ability to follow through. I’m by no means an expert in biomechanics, but it raises red flags nonetheless.
In game action, Campos’ four-seam fastball sat in the 93-94 MPH range. His ability to maintain consistent velocity on a dreary, wet evening was impressive, but the pitch lacked movement which explains his abnormally high BABIP supporting a five-plus ERA. Campos’ low walk rates point to his being consistently around the plate with his fastball, but the fact that it was “on a string” illuminates how little velocity means if the pitch does nothing other than sit in the strike zone. Campos also mixed in a two-seam fastball, altering both his delivery and release point in an attempt to guide the pitch.
Campos’ curveball was more of a “slurvy” offering at 80-81 MPH. Without sharp, tight break, the pitch was not strong enough to induce swings-and-misses which explains his relatively low strikeout rates. Entering his age-21 season, Campos still has time to clean up the offering, but he’s to the point of falling behind the development curve.
At 85-87 MPH, Campos also flashed a changeup with a touch of late drop and deceptive arm action. When throwing the pitch, I noticed no discernible slowing of his delivery leaving it his best off-speed offering. However, Campos did little more than flash both off-speed pitches and he’ll need to utilize them more as he advances through the system.
On paper, his peripherals seem somewhat “fluky” and this is supported by an FIP nearly two runs lower than Campos’ ERA. However, the sum of his arsenal explains why the numbers seem so out of whack. Peppering the strike zone with a flat, albeit borderline-plus velocity fastball will result in more barreled balls than if Campos were able to make the pitch dart or dive. Harder hit balls lead to more hits allowed which explains his surrendering an exorbitant 111 hits in 86 2/3 innings pitched and a .369 BABIP against a league average of .313.
Additionally, a hittable fastball will also bring down walk totals as batters simply don’t need to work deeper counts to identify a pitch to hit. Against a pitcher like Campos, it pays to be more aggressive and will lead to his walk totals appearing artificially impressive, when, in fact, Campos is simply swapping hits for walks en route to a 1.50 WHIP.
In assessing Campos’ strikeout totals, swings and misses generally come from off-speed pitches and his offerings do not have the depth or break to induce whiffs. This, and his hesitancy to throw them also helps support his walk rates, as well as hits allowed. In summation, the stats mirror the scouting more closely than just about any prospect I’ve scouted considering the level of play and that performance is really a distant second to tools at the lower levels.
When trying to group Campos with other prospects I’ve scouted, Mets Jeurys Familia and Rangers Wilmer Font come to mind in terms of being unpolished, but hard throwing, big-bodied Latin American pitchers with upside. However, I struggle to look past the fact that both were younger and had better fastballs when making the South Atlantic league rounds. Familia and Campos had similar velocities, but the Mets product had excellent movement which bore in on right-handed hitters. Font’s fastball lacked movement similar to Campos, but worked innings in the 94-96 MPH range, leaving more room for error.
In the end, I’d certainly want an arm like Campos in my organization, but as more of a wild card and not the control artist he somewhat appears to be on paper. Teach him to utilize his lower half to take some pressure off his arm, and the potential is there for him work into the mid-90s, touching even higher. Refine his breaking ball and maybe it becomes a fringe average pitch with an average changeup he trusts more, leaving a serviceable three-pitch mix. Combine this with his durable frame and maybe Campos settles in as a pitcher capable of eating a ton of innings at the back end of a big league rotation. Unfortunately, discussing Campos involves too many variables to project a surefire big leaguer at this point forcing a more wait and see approach.
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