The average age of players in “High-A” ball is typically a hair under 23. At this level, we see a lot of guys who played college baseball, or who have spent years and years toiling at the lower levels of the developmental ranks, hoping for one big break.
Padres catching prospect Luis Campusano has done neither of those things.
Drafted 39th overall out of a Georgia high school in 2017, Campusano has progressed from Rookie ball to High-A Lake Elsinore in just over two years.
Now, he’s the co-MVP of the High-A Cal League, despite being just 20 years of age.
It’s difficult to overstate what an impressive accomplishment this is for a 20-year-old. True, Campusano’s .320 average and 144 wRC+ are impressive figures—but many observers understand that the California League is a hitter-friendly environment, where fly balls catch wings and soar into high desert skies.
It would be easy to see Campusano’s offensive success as an impressive, if somewhat overinflated, accomplishment.
But apparently the rest of the league—which plays in the same parks, with the same baseballs, and against the same competition—thinks it is anything but. In fact, they think he—a 20-year-old playing way above his age—is the best player among them.
It is very rare to see catchers hit 44% better than league average competition, despite being nearly three years younger than average competition, and despite playing catcher—unequivocally the most demanding defensive position in the sport of baseball.
For context, consider that, before declining in recent years, Buster Posey of the Giants was generally regarded as the most impressive offensive catcher of his generation.
Consider that only once in his career, in 2012, did Buster Posey log a wRC+ figure equal to or exceeding the 144 wRC+ figure Campusano has managed this year.
It was quite unexpected, even after a nice showing (106 wRC+) in Fort Wayne last year, that Campusano would claim an award like this. This is a player, after all, that didn’t appear on most top-10 lists of Padres prospects in the preseason.
Next year will be another challenge for Campusano. Presumably, he’ll begin in the Texas League with the San Antonio Sod Poodles. There, he’ll find less friendly ballparks in which to hit.
There, he’ll again face competition several years older than he—the average age of that league is over 24.
Here’s hoping the Padres young Georgian can defy the odds once again in 2020—and put himself on those top-10 lists for good.