Should Mets Acquire Tony Campana?

In a recent comment, “TexasGusCC” said:

Tony Campana was just released by the Cubs to make room for Scott Hairston on the 40 man roster. Campana’s stats: 347 ABs, 54 sb, 44 r, .260 avg, .308 obp.
Bourn for $14MM and 40-45 sb, or Campana for a song and mabe 75-80 sb?

What do you think? Should the Mets see about acquiring the speedster center fielder?

Ironically, the 26-year-old Campana was designated for assignment by the Cubs to make room on the roster for former Met Scott Hairston. In two MLB seasons, the mighty mite (Campana stands a generous 5’8″) has hit .262 with a .306 OBP and .605 OPS in 184 games and 347 plate appearances. His main tool is speed; he covers plenty of ground in the outfield and has stolen 54 bases in 59 attempts.

Those focused squarely on the stat line no doubt will bemoan Campana’s poor OBP and lack of power. The latter, to me, is not a huge deal, because his main value to a team is defense, and his secondary value is baserunning — sure, you’d like to see more extra-base hits but a solidly constructed team will make up for power deficiencies “up the middle” through sluggers at the corners. Campana’s ability to get on-base at the big-league level, though, is concerning, mainly because he’s a singles hitter; maybe if he had more punch, the OBP would be more bearable. But, there are a few factors that offer optimism in terms of Campana’s ability to get on base and use that burner speed.

First off, Campana showed fairly good OBP numbers prior to reaching MLB — he posted a .378 OBP in his last full season in the minors, at AA Tennessee in 2010, and followed that up with a .383 OBP in 30 AAA games in 2011 before being promoted to the big leagues.

Second, I have to wonder how much of his aggressiveness and lacking plate discipline / patience had to do with playing in a part-time role for the Cubs. Of the 89 games in which he appeared in 2012, only 38 were as a starter — he was either a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner, or defensive replacement in the other 51 games. It’s hard to get into a rhythm when a player makes one start (or less) a week, and when he does finally get his chance — and particularly when it’s a younger player — he might try to do too much, and play “outside of himself.” Further, as a pinch-hitter, it’s often in a situation where the player is more focused on getting a hit or putting the ball in play — because there are runners on — and he may be more aggressive than if the bases were empty. Sure, a player’s approach shouldn’t matter regardless of the situation, but players are human, and often, they want to come out of an at-bat as the hero who drove in the winning run — that guy is more likely to get a start the following day than the guy who draws a walk.

Do I think Tony Campana can be an everyday center fielder in MLB? Doubtful; he’ll either have to do a much better job of drawing walks or hit MANY more singles and boost his OBP by way of batting average. Juan Pierre, Mickey Rivers, and Omar Moreno are three guys who immediately come to mind as possible comps — if Campana can boost his average near or over .300. Moreno and Rivers in particular were notoriously aggressive hitters who rarely walked, but their blazing speed was enough to affect a pitcher’s concentration and alter their strategy — two issues that are difficult to measure directly via stats, yet can help a team score runs. Campana has that kind of game-changing speed.

That’s the main reason I’d consider adding Campana to a ballclub — he has a tool that can’t be taught, and it’s elite. Campana might be one of five fastest men in MLB, which makes him intriguing.

Of course, one thing going against him from the Mets’ perspective is that he hits from the left side, and the Mets already have enough lefthanded-hitting center fielders. They also have enough slap hitters. But, it’s not as though it will cost anything more than a waiver claim to get Campana into the organization.

What do you think? Is Campana worth considering? Why or why not?

12-13 Offseason

About the Author

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.

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