BBDP Nickname: J-Cam
Name: Jose Campos
Signing: 2009 out of Venezuela, signed by the Seattle Mariners
Size: 6-foot-4, 195-pounds
Other Pitches: Curve, Changeup, Slider
BBDP Rank: 6
You can’t mention Jose Campos’ name without mentioning the now infamous trade that brought Michael Pineda (and Campos) to New York for Jesus (the second coming of Babe Ruth) Montero and Hector Noesi. So far, the trade has netted a whole lot of nothing for either side. With Pineda finally healthy and Jose Campos ready to take of the training wheels, that could all change after this season.
Jose’s career trajectory has been a bit rocky. He started off with the Mariners in the Venezuelan Summer League (the equivalent of the DSL for the Mariners). There he learned the ropes and as a 16 year old had a 5.73 ERA in 33.0 innings with 23 strikeouts. The following year he proved he was ready for the United States by posting a 3.16 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 57 innings. He also had a 3.0 BB/9.
As an 18 year old Campos made it stateside in 2011. Seattle placed him in their Short Season Low-A affiliate, where he had his coming out party. He pitched 81.1 innings, had 85 K, and a 2.32 ERA. He was ranked by Baseball America as the third best prospect in the league he played in. He was seen by many as the best pitching prospect in the Short Season leagues.
Then he was traded to the Yankees, where he pitched 24.2 innings in his first season and then succumbed to elbow problems which kept him out the rest of the season. He had a 4.01 ERA in that time period and struck out 26 batters.
Almost full strength by the start of the season in 2013, Campos was a 20 year old in Charleston and had an effective season. He built his strength throughout the season but never got quite back to the guy the Yankees thought they traded for in terms of stuff. That said, he had excellent numbers. He threw 87.0 innings, had 77 K, and had an astoundingly low 1.7 BB/9 rate. His ERA was 3.41 on the season.
After the 2013 season Campos was eligible for the rule 5 draft, and he was protected by the Yankees on the 40-man roster, which shows how highly they think of him.
There are three versions of the Jose Campos story you will read about on the internet. There’s his scouting report with the Mariners, his scouting report after he came to the Yankees, and his scouting report after the injury. It’s unclear why the scouting report was different almost immediately after being traded to the Yankees, but it could have involved anything from the elbow injury to an anti-Yankees bias in the media.
In general, Campos was known prior to the trade to the Yankees as a guy who sat 92-95 mph and reached 98 mph on occasion. He was known to have a slider and curve with plus potential and a change which was early in development at that time. He was known to have good pitch-ability and control though.
On arrival with the Yankees it became clear that Campos was more of a 91-94 guy who could pop a couple of 96 readings on the radar gun. His curve was an 82-84 mph offering and good command.The changeup graded out as a decent third pitch. He has good control of all of his offerings.
Last but not least, we can look at Campos’ stuff now. Campos sits mostly at 92-93 mph. He will throw some 89-91 mph pitches throughout the game though. His fastball is relatively straight at this point in his career. His curve ranges between 72-78 mph but inconsistent. It does have plus potential if he is able to stay more on top of it and keep it in the high 70’s to low 80’s.
He is accurate with his changeup, and it sometimes has good fade, but is inconsistent at this point. He will have to work on all of his pitches to continue to ascend going forward. It also wouldn’t hurt if he was able to regain some of that lost velocity. That in and of itself would bring him back to the top prospect radar.
With the current stuff, Campos has to be viewed as more of a potential late inning reliever. It’s tough to pigeon-hole him into that category though because no one knows if he will have more in the tank next season when he will hopefully have all of his arm strength back. If he does, and his off-speed pitches take a step forward then his ceiling immediately goes to a second starter.
His floor is pretty obvious. With the near disastrous elbow injury last season, he could end up being an injury bust. That said, without an injury his floor is actually pretty high. There’s a reason the Yankees had to protect him this year, because he is talented enough already to contribute to a major league bullpen. Even if he did go in the rule 5 there would have been a high likelihood of a team returning him to the Yankees.
The likelihood of hitting his ceiling at this point is low, but no one really knows how his arm will rebound next year. We will have a much better idea of where Campos stands after the 2014 season.
Campos will start out in High-A Tampa. The Yankees will still limit his innings since the most he’s ever thrown was 87 last year. That likely means he’ll be due for somewhere between 117-127 innings next year. After that the training wheels will be completely taken off. Now that he’s on the 40-man roster. The Yankees will have to burn an option on him every year until he reaches the majors. He has three options now. This means that he will have to be on the major league team in 2017 or be passed through waivers.
That still places him on track to be in Triple-A in 2016 if he moves one level at a time, however if he moves faster it will give the Yankees more flexibility with him. He could be in the majors as soon as 2015 depending how fast he moves and how quickly his stuff comes along.
Admittedly I was probably a bit more bullish in my ranking of Campos than I should have been in my End of the Season Top 50. Six is a bit high given all of the other high end arms in the system and given where his arm is right now. To be fair though I didn’t have the most updated scouting information at my disposal at that time. His ranking will probably drop a bit in the preseason Top 50 for 2014, but he’ll have a chance to change that pretty quickly if he comes to camp throwing fireballs.