Fort Wayne TinCaps catcher Luis Campusano relatively new to position, but bursting with potential

Fort Wayne TinCaps catcher Luis Campusano takes the field before the home opener Saturday at Parkview Field. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)

The Fort Wayne TinCaps’ Luis Campusano became a catcher when he was a junior in high school. That’s late. But clearly not too late.

The switch from first base to catcher paid off as Campusano was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft as the 39th overall pick and signed with a $1.3 million bonus. He played rookie league ball last year and is with the TinCaps for his first full season this spring.

He’s gifted and full of untapped potential.

“It’s a big jump,” TinCaps manager Anthony Contreras said. “He was just out of high school last year and played a little bit of rookie ball. You don’t see many 18-year-old catchers do that.”

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Campusano, who turned 19 in September, switched to catcher as a junior at Cross Creek High School (Ga.) at the urging of his travel baseball coach and his father. Genaro Campusano played four seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league organization and one season with the Texas Rangers minor league organization.

“All the little kids always said catching is the best position to play, the most fun position to play,” Luis Campusano said. “I thought, ‘Let me give it a try. Why not?’ I was just curious about what it’d be like to be a catcher.”

Catcher is indeed a great position for seeing the game and being in on all the action. It’s also taxing.

“My Dad and I were doing blocking drills and I thought, ‘Aw, man, I don’t know if I can do that,’ but I was up for a challenge,” Campusano said. “I’m glad I chose this position.”

Campusano’s strong arm and power hitting garnered the notice of pro scouts. After being drafted by the Padres, he hit .269 (.388 slugging, .732 OPS) with four home runs, four doubles and 25 RBIs in 37 rookie-league games.

Playing with the low Class A TinCaps, Campusano will work with a talented pitching staff, with most of those pitchers being older and more experienced in professional baseball.

Campusano is 1-for-9 hitting, with a double, a walk and two strikeouts in three games so far. He has thrown out one base runner attempting a steal and has one passed ball. The TinCaps have home games this week through Thursday at Parkview Field.

“He’s a very good student of the game. He watches a lot of video and studies other catchers,” Contreras said. “Once he gets some games and experience under his belt, his game will iron out. He has a willingness to learn and get better, and he has the physicality to play the position and be a force in the lineup.”

A catcher also has to understand how to handle the pitching staff, what type of pitches work best in which situations and how to coax the best out of the pitchers he is working with.

“You have to be sharper, everybody’s getting fine-tuned and the game’s moving faster,” Campusano said. “You have to be ahead of everybody else, help the pitching staff and help win ballgames.”

Contreras calls Campusano aggressive and physical, which can be two solid attributes for success as a catcher.

“It takes a toll on your body, but I’m up for the challenge,” Campusano said. “Catching is one of the best choices I ever made, in terms of playing the position. I enjoy every bit of it. I love it. I love my job.”

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