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Prospect Retro: Mike Cameron

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Mike Cameron (AP)

Prospect Retrospective: Mike Cameron

Mike Cameron was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 18th round in 1991, out of high school in LaGrange, Georgia. Your basic raw athlete, he hit .221/.310/.243 in 44 games of rookie ball that year, poor performance by any measure. He did steal 13 bases. Given his youth and athleticism, you could give him a Grade C rating at that point, but the same could be said about 100 other good athletes in rookie ball in any given year.

Cameron split '92 between Utica in the New York-Penn League and South Bend in the Midwest League. He played well in the NY-P (.276/.361/.448), but was overmatched at South Bend (.228/.297/.342). Again, a Grade C grade, based on long-term potential, would be appropriate.

In '93, Cameron struggled for South Bend, playing regularly but hitting .238/.291/.297, showing neither strike zone judgment nor power. He stole 19 bases, but otherwise his performance was quite weak. A downgrade to Grade C- would have been likely retrospectively, there being no real evidence that he would ever put his tools to use.

Cameron made progress in '94, hitting .248.338/.391 for Prince William in the Carolina League. He added almost 100 points to his slugging percentage. He also increased his walk rate while cutting his strikeouts. The signs of progress were real, which would be enough to move his grade back up to C.

In '95, Cameron was promoted to Double-A and had his best season yet, hitting .249/.353/.429 with 21 steals for Birmingham. His OPB and SLG both improved by about 30 points, and at a higher level, a good marker. He also appeared in the Majors for the first time, hitting .184 in 28 games for the White Sox, overmatched certainly but he did impress people with his athleticism. I gave him a Grade C+ in the '96 book, with the note that he had a lot of long-term potential but was not ready yet.

The Sox sent Cameron back to Double-A in '96, where he blossomed, hitting .300/.396/.600 with 39 steals, showing power, speed, and continued improved plate discipline. Although he was repeating the league, I felt his progress was legitimate, and gave him a Grade B+ in the '97 book.

Cameron split '97 between Triple-A Nashville and the White Sox. After being used as a platoon player in '98 (and struggling), he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in '99 and became a regular. Cameron can be erratic, strikes out a lot, and has trouble keeping his batting average over .250 on a consistent basis. But his power and speed play well, he will take a walk, and his defense is stellar.

In the minors, Cameron didn't do much until reaching Double-A in '95, his big breakout occurring the following season at age 23. He showed gradually improving plate discipline as he moved up, which enabled him (eventually) to translate his raw strength into actual power. He is a good example of a tools player made good, a raw athlete who turned his tools into usable skills.

Comparable Players to Mike Cameron (based on Sim Score and PECOTA, through age 31, no active players listed)

Ruppert Jones
Eric Davis
Dave Henderson
Tom Tresh
Ron Gant
Larry Hisle
Ellis Burks
Howard Johnson
Bobby Bonds