Do Chicago Cubs fans really have a reason to be disappointed by the Monday trade of outfielder Tony Campana to the Arizona Diamondbacks? Though he was a speedy, scrappy, energetic, fun-to-watch kind of player with a heartwarming backstory, his value for the 2013 Cubs was minimal at best. The team doesn’t have much need for a guy who is most usable in pinch running situations, and who really has a below-average glove in the outfield to go along with a very weak arm.
In parts of two seasons, Campana has failed to prove that he can get on base in order to utilize the speed, and though some folks are having flashbacks of the Lou Brock trade of 1964, Campana just doesn’t have the same abilities that Brock had. Brock had already established himself as an everyday player by the time he was 25 years old. Campana turns 27 in May, and will assume, at best, a part time role in Arizona. Brock proved the ability to hit balls out of the ballpark at a young age, and Campana has just one inside-the-park home run to his credit in 317 career at bats. Though the on-base percentages are comparable, (.319 and .300 in Brock’s first two seasons and .303 and .308 for Campana) but the fact of the matter is, Brock had more potential, and just needed a change of scenery to flourish.
I hope Campana does flourish in Arizona, playing for a contender, if he can stick with the big league club. But more importantly for Cubs fans, their team was able to steal a couple of really young, Venezuelan pitching prospects (using the term “prospect” loosely), even after previously designating Campana for assignment. That’s Theo and Co. making moves and being able to acquire value in return for something of lesser value, with value being determined with regards to the Cubs’ current rebuilding process.
The two 17-year-old pitchers coming to the Cubs in return for Campana are not scrubs. They arrive with good reviews, but with a very small sample size to go on. Both right-handers, Erick Leal and Jesus Castillo were signed as international free agents at the tender age of 16, so both have some serious developing to do before we can really consider them as serious prospects. However, both of them have great stuff for their young age. According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, Leal can touch 88-89 mph with his fastball and “when signed, stood out for his size, delivery, ability to throw strikes and spin a breaking ball.” Of Castillo, Badler says that “his athleticism is evident in his smooth delivery, which he repeats well for his age…touches the low 90’s and has a good changeup…though his breaking ball is still a work in progress.”
In 14 games in the Dominican Summer League last year, Leal impressed with a 6-2 record, 2.44 ERA, and only walked 11 batters in 70.0 innings pitched (1.4/9 IP) while striking out 70. Castillo, who made the age requirement for signing eligibility by merely a week, was less impressive in his 14 games on the hill, posting a 2-4 record with a 5.40 ERA in 47.0 innings. On a brighter side, Castillo walked 17 and struck out 41, so he too displayed decent command. These kids are both extremely new to professional baseball, but they have the potential, as of right now, to continue to build size and strength, and their ability should improve naturally as they progress through the system.
It’s impossible to predict the future however, and we won’t know who really got the better end of this deal fora few years at the earliest. Maybe Campana will prove that a lack of size and strength can be made up for with desire and blazing speed and discover a situation where he can play everyday. Maybe we will never hear about Erick Leal or Jesus Castillo again, but the Cubs are currently in a rebuilding process where #1 on the to-do list is revamping and improving the organization on a much deeper level than just the big league club. Campana simply does not fit into the front office’s plan for the future, and though he’s fun to watch and root for, wouldn’t make much of an impact in the Cubs’ eventual World Series run, if any at all.
In the meantime, Cubs fans can find comfort in the fact that they’ve just added two more young, electric arms, and should trust in what the guys behind these moves are doing. You can never have too many young pitchers in your organization.