Hours after trading Andrew Miller to the Indians, the New York Yankees have struck again. They now acquire relief pitcher Tyler Clippard from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for right-handed starting pitching prospect Vincente Campos, formerly known as Jose Campos. Here at MinorLeagueBall, we focus on prospects. So let’s get to know the newest Diamondback. Where does he project as a big leaguer? How soon will be playing in Chase Field? And most importantly, who won this trade?
Vincente Campos came over to the Yankees as the second piece in the Michael Pineda trade. In Seattle, he attracted attention a young flamethrower who dominated older competition. He didn’t just pitch in short season Low-A at age 18, 3.1 years younger than league average. He dominated, posting a 2.32 ERA, .971 WHIP, and 6.54 K/BB ratio. Campos continued his strong performance with the Yankees, putting up a 3.41 ERA as a twenty-year-old in full season A-ball. However, an elbow injury sidelined Campos for the entire 2014 season. When he returned in 2015, he seemed lost. He struck out just 7.8 batters per nine and owned an ugly 7.05 ERA.
In 2016, though, Campos appears to have returned to his pre-injury self. Across High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, his numbers have rebounded to a 3.20 ERA and 1.165 WHIP. His 2.76 K/9, though, is worrisome. Does Campos still have the explosiveness to get hitters out as a starter? Let’s turning to the scouting book to find out.
Campos struggles to consistently replicate the same arm slot over and over again. He does not use his lower body much in his delivery. He halfheartedly extends his leg towards the batter and relies on his arm strength to generate power. The motion looks low-effort, and a lot like that of Luis Severino. But if Campos wants to remain a starter and stay healthy, he needs to get every ounce out of his body that he can. Strengthening his lower body and incorporating that into his pitching motion could reduce stress on his arm, increase velocity, and make his delivery easier to repeat. Right now, he throws more like a reliever than a starter.
MLB.com reports that Campos’ fastball velocity is back to where it was two years ago. He now sits 93-95, and can touch 97 on occasion. That is certainly good enough to get major league hitters out. Plus, the pitch has a slight run away from lefties and into righties. However, Campos does not have the command of this pitch he once did. Due to an inconsistent arm slot and the pitch’s movement, he often misses his spots up and away. It will be interesting to see if Campos can regain his control of this pitch. After all, it was his pinpoint control (1.4 BB/9 as an 18-year-old in Low-A) that made him a top prospect.
Campos throws a slider and a change-up. Both pitches need work, but flash potential as plus or at least above-average offerings. He slider is significantly slower than his fastball. He needs to keep his arm speed consistent on this pitch to reach its full potential. It is most effective against righties. His change-up, though, is excellent. His arm action on this pitch mimics the fastball and it dives down into the zone, getting ground balls and swings and misses. It can be used against righties and lefties.
Jose Campos is an interesting project for the Diamondbacks. He has a plus fastball and two off-speed pitches that have good potential. He could fit in the middle of the Diamondbacks' bullpen right now. However, if the team wants him to be an effective starter, they need to find a way to refine his delivery and get him to control his pitches. All the tools are there. Campos has done it before. He just needs to find himself again. I believe he can be a starting pitcher in the majors with a little more development. That’s an excellent return on a reliever making more than $6M who currently sports a 4.30 ERA.