As the 2012 season approaches, Cubbies Crib is profiling each and every member of the Cubs forty man roster. Today, we are talking about Tony Campana.
The lightening fast Campana is best compared as a poor man’s Juan Pierre. The speed and resulting ability to steal bases almost at will; both hit from the left side; being able to cover acres of ground in the outfield despite not always taking the best angles to a ball; and an outfield arm that will not strike fear in the hearts of base runners. Of course the main difference is that the veteran Pierre has the career long track record of getting on base via the base hit, something that Campana will need to improve on if he wishes to stick around at the Major League level.
Campana had a break out season in 2010 in his first year at AA Tennessee. For the first time in his minor league career, he had ended the season with a batting average above .300 while pretty much doubling his totals in both doubles and triples in A ball the year before. The most impressive number was the 66 stolen bases to boot.
In 2011, the speedster was on pace to providing an encore performance at AAA Iowa when he got the call up to replace Tyler Colvin on the Major League roster in May. The threat on the base paths that he created alone appeared to be enough to keep him in the Majors for the rest of the season. While providing a spark here and there, Campana’s role was mostly restricted to a pinch runner/pinch hitter/defensive replacement role. Despite that, he was still able to rack up 24 thefts and nipped Starlin Castro for the team lead despite playing in about 60 less games with over 500 less at bats. To put his stolen base production into perspective, he had 24 steals out of 26 attempts while only reaching base safely47 times. Granted several of those swipes came as a pinch runner, but it is still impressive when you take a step back and look at the numbers.
This Spring Campana will be looking to cement his spot on the 25 man roster as the fifth outfielder and pinch runner. Whether it is members of the Cubs organization or the fan base, neither party is going to dispute the incoming sophomore’s ability to fill the team’s need for speed. The best case scenario for his career would be if he could plug the black hole that has been the lead off spot for the Cubs all these years, but his bat is still far from being able to prove that he will be able to hit consistently enough to warrant a starting job.
Unless he looks completely lost at the plate this Spring, Campana figures to keep his roster spot from 2011. Considering the level of depth competing for rotation spots, and the fact that most of the candidates to lose out in that contest will have minor league options still available at the Cubs disposal, it will be hard to find reasons for manage Dale Sveum to take thirteen pitchers back with the team to Wrigley come Opening Day. That means that the position players will make up a baker’s dozen out of the 25 man roster limit, and leaves room for the sixth infielder position battle between Adrian Cardenas and Blake DeWitt without having to sacrifice Campana’s spot on the team.
Expect Campana to do exactly what he did for the Cubs last season instead of a break out year. Even if the Cubs are able to trade away one or both of Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd sometime between now and July, there are names like Brett Jackson that the front office will want to see cutting their teeth first. That is not a slight to Campana, but just the reality that the role that would best suit his skill set would be one as a part time player.