Despite being one of the San Diego Padres’ top position player prospects over the last few years, Luis Campusano has only seen brief action at the big-league level.
Since debuting in the shortened 2020 season, Campusano has only donned the brown and gold for 28 career games – accumulating 92 plate appearances in that span.
It hasn’t been the sweetest cup of tea for Campusano, either. He’s slashing a mere .250/.260/.333 in that span with a 67 wRC+ and 22% strikeout rate to go along with a 2% walk rate.
Not bringing him up to the big leagues wasn’t a result of unimpressive offensive production. Campusano is a career .301 hitter at the professional level with an OPS of .841. He’s clobbered the Pacific Coast League each of the last two seasons, accumulating a triple-slash of .297/.364/.512 over 611 at-bats. Campusano has proven his ability to hit for power and reach base at a high clip, leaving little to prove at the minor-league level.
His lack of playing time hasn’t come from San Diego having an abundance of talent behind the plate, either. The Padres’ offensive production from their catching core over the last few years has been average at best and often leaving plenty to be desired.
What’s kept Campusano in the minors for all this time has been his glove, albeit likely a bit over-exaggerated. Some within the organization didn’t fully believe in Campusano’s ability to captain a pitching staff at the next level, but the young backstop did show promise in his opportunities last year. He’s an adequate pitch framer, has the arm strength to control the running game, and worked comfortably with Joe Musgrove, too.
For the first time in his career, however, more playing time in 2023 appears to be on the horizon for Campusano. As things stand right now, the 24-year-old Georgia native and Austin Nola are slated to be the team’s primary backstops, with recently signed Pedro Severino as a depth piece. The veteran Nola will almost certainly draw most of the starts because of his experience and playing time, but an avenue exists for Campusano to see more consistent time, particularly at the plate.
Though he’ll spell Nola on occasion defensively, Campusano’s ability to hit left-handed pitching has to enhance his value for the Padres. He’s always mashed against southpaws in the minors, and that aforementioned power could prove more prominent against them as well. It’s an option for the Padres to start him against some left-handed arms, especially when Musgrove is on the mound, or to slot him into the DH spot, too. In a division that features two prominent left-handed arms, adding a productive Campusano to a lineup presently constructed to do plenty of damage is appealing on all fronts.
It’s likely that, at some point, the Padres will want to get more offensive production from their catcher position. Nola’s wRC+ has declined each year since he arrived in San Diego, including a mark 11 points behind league average in 2022. He’s entering his age-33 season and offers little-to-no power, limiting his upside almost entirely at the plate. There’s no guarantee that Campusano can perform with consistency against the game’s best arms, but it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t have the higher ceiling of the two.
It’s difficult to envision a world where the aforementioned Severino, who owns a career average wRC+ of 81, overtakes either of these two for consistent playing time. Barring an injury, San Diego will turn to these two to operate behind the plate for 2023, opening up an opportunity for Campusano that he hasn’t seen before.