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?

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.
  1. joe kos February 10, 2013 at 8:41 pm
    yes bourn will hit 250 at citi with 5hr 25sb and strike out 150 times look ath the stats this guy could bat 240 at city with 50 sb and strike out less. lets do the math 13 million or 500,000
  2. Dan B February 10, 2013 at 9:17 pm
    Funny, when I look at the Met’s roster I see no lefty (or righty) MLB centerfielders so what do we care how he bats? I also think hitting him leadoff would have the other benefit of keeping Tejada out of the leadoff spot which could hurt him long term.
  3. Matt Himelfarb February 10, 2013 at 9:58 pm
    Oh man. 5’8 scrappy white speedster named Tony Campana? He’d become such a fan favorite, Sandy Alderson might finally go all in on the rebuilding project and trade David Wright.

    In all seriousness, though, the main problem seems to be Campana’s arm. Even with his putrid offense, if Campana had an average arm, he could actually be an average big league regular, given he has elite level range. Problem is, from everything i’ve read, his arm is Juan Pierre level bad, canceling out a lot of his defensive value.

    • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 2:14 am
      Which is why I brought up the rag-armed Rivers, Moreno, and Pierre as comps. Again, if Campana can hit close to .300 — which might be out of his reach — he could have a career as long and fruitful as those three guys. Or, he could turn out to be Jeff Duncan.
  4. DaveSchneck February 10, 2013 at 11:45 pm
    In the absence of signing Bourn, Campana is certainly worth a look. Of course there is a huge price difference, but that is for a reason. Bourn is a good but not great player, but he brings multiple skills that the Mets lack. Gold glove D up the middle, a professional leadoff hitter, and speed. These skills are not worth $14-$15 mil per year, but close to that, and there is very low probability that they will vanish over the next 3 years. They have the money. This is a move that a team planning on competing soon will make if they can agree on price/length.
  5. argonbunnies February 11, 2013 at 1:45 am
    To claim him off waivers, don’t we have to add him to the 40-man roster? Isn’t ours full?

    As for the noodle arm, I’m curious to hear Joe’s coaching thoughts on fixing that. Unless the guy has a shoulder or elbow condition, I don’t see why he couldn’t be taught a proper throwing motion. I mean, Ichiro is no bigger and stronger than Pierre, he simply gets his whole body into his throws with great mechanics.

    • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 2:19 am
      Good point on the roster space. Is Campana worth adding over Anthony Recker? Collin McHugh? Brandon Hicks? Maybe, I’m really not sure. Is some other team going to pounce if Hicks, for example, is DFA’d? Doubtful, and even if some team does, is he miles better than Justin Turner?

      As for his arm, I don’t know how much better it can get at this point. I generally work with kids and young men aged 7-22, and know they can improve. After age 22, I don’t have much experience. I’m sure it’s possible to overhaul mechanics and be successful, but it would be tough and take a tremendous amount of repetition to break old habits.

    • TexasGusCC February 11, 2013 at 3:06 am
      Looked into that. There’s a guy named Greg Burke on the 40 man roster on the website, whom I have never heard of. As a bullpen guy who is 31 and whose stats are very uninspiring, he’s my target.
      • DaveSchneck February 11, 2013 at 10:19 am
        Despite that truckload of bullpen candidates, this guy Burke is intriguing. Apparently, he re-invented himself as a righty sidewinder – a Chad Bradford type. He has a shot at making this pen, so I think they will hold him for now and get a long look.
        • jerseymet February 11, 2013 at 5:37 pm
          If Campana is major league ready, pick him up. Send Kirk to AAA. Play him everyday so he can learn to hit leftys and not strike out so much. Den Dekker gets bumped of the roster. This time of year everyone has roster problems.
  6. wohjr February 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm
    I wonder what the big kahuna is up to these days