Luis Campusano is poised to be starting catcher for Padres

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Luis Campusano looks poised to be the starting catcher for the San Diego Padres in 2024.

Catching in the Major Leagues has to be one of the most challenging things to do in professional sports.

The nuances of the position are grueling and difficult to master. Some players start their careers as catchers but never grasp the ideals and are relegated to different roles on the ball field moving forward.

For Luis Campusano, hitting was never an issue for the right-hander out of Georgia. His problems of the past were mainly directed at his receiving abilities and Campusano’s lack of defensive skills. The former second-round pick in 2017 out of high school took some time to adjust to professional baseball. He was undoubtedly raw at the beginning of his career.

In 2023, we saw a different Campusano with the glove.

Pitchers of the past had issues throwing to the young catcher, and most were quite outspoken about his inabilities behind the plate. That seemed to change this past year as Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove began to enjoy throwing to the catcher, and both pitchers were quick to give praise to him in 2023.

Campusano is trending the correct way with his defense, but there are still some concerns that cannot be ignored.

Last season, Luis Campusano threw out only one runner in 30 stolen base attempts. In fact, he has only thrown out one runner ever at the major league level. Campusano is now 1-for-42 lifetime in caught steals. In contrast, Gary Sanchez threw out 10-of-48 (21 percent) potential base stealers in 2023. The league average was 19 percent last season, so Sanchez was slightly above average at throwing runners out.

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The steals are not 100 percent on catchers, though, as the pitchers do deserve some responsibility for the lack of awareness of baserunners. However, a three percent clip in caught steals from Campusano is something that other teams will exploit in the future. You can be assured of that fact. He needs to adjust and be better with his pop times and throwing. Plain and simple.

There were also times in 2023 when Luis Campusano seemed to lose focus and not get set up properly to receive the ball. He was charged with two passed balls in 2023 in 325 innings behind the plate. The modern era of catchers does not pride themselves on defense as they did in the past, so Campusano should be fine moving forward. The position developed to one where a player must swing the bat adequately to earn playing time. Very few players are kept in the majors solely for their defense.

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Luis Campusano will likely never be an excellent defensive catcher, but that is alright. If the Padres can get him to be around the league average with the glove, his bat should carry him into multiple all-star appearances for the Padres. He is that good with the stick.

The 25-year-old catcher put up a .847 OPS in 49 games and 163 at-bats for the Padres in 2023. It may have been a small sample size, but Campusano’s numbers prove that he will be able to handle major-league pitching. The right-handed hitter slugged seven homers and produced a .491 slugging percentage. The power is real, but more importantly, he is able to maintain a high average by shortening up and putting the ball in play with two strikes.

In 2024, Campusano is penciled in as the starting catcher. Gary Sanchez is a free agent and will surely make more than the $1.5 million he made last season. The Padres could bring back Sanchez, but there are reports that the club would like to save money. That leaves Luis Campusano as the possible starter and a young player who could possibly see the majority of the starts behind the plate in 2024.

If the Padres do rely on Luis Campusano for the 2024 season, expect them to pair him with a veteran. Whether that is Sanchez or some other proven major league catcher, a left-handed hitting catcher to pair up with Campusano would probably be the ideal fit for the San Diego Padres in the coming season. We shall see how the cards play out.

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