The San Diego Padres 2023 season has brought a feeling of anguish to the Friar Faithful. Often, it is served with a sense of hopelessness on the side after every blown-lead loss. But help is on the way in the form of Luis Campusano being activated to the roster. Suddenly, the Padres catching situation becomes interesting.
Austin Nola never could stay on track as San Diego Padres catcher
The Padres seem to be in search of a catching upgrade every offseason during the A.J. Preller regime. He swung a deal to acquire Austin Nola from the Seattle Mariners at the 2020 trade deadline. It started promising, but the move was a major disappointment.
Nola was a hitter first and a catcher second. His bat was decent in the first season and a half in San Diego. But Nola’s defensive skills were declining with each passing year. He struggled to block pitches in the dirt and threw out only 16.8% of baserunners attempting to steal a base. No question, Nola took his defensive troubles with him to the batter’s box this season. The offensive stats do not lie, as Nola batted .146 with only four extra-base hits in 130 at-bats. Thus, his tenure with the Padres has ended with his demotion to El Paso.
The time is now for Luis Campusano
Campusano was once the crown jewel of the Friars minor league system. But his development behind the plate has not gone according to plan. He made his MLB debut during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. It was a sneak peek into the future, as Campusano appeared in one road game against the Oakland A’s. He went 1-3 with a solo home run.
The Friar Faithful’s high aspirations for Campusano came to a crashing halt with a disappointing 2021 campaign. He batted .088 (3-for-34) with one RBI in 11 games. But more importantly, starting pitchers complained about Campusano’s inability to call a game and his defensive skills were deemed poor. The Padres front office sent him back to the minors for more seasoning.
It has been a small sampling at the major league level, but Campusano provided little production with a .198 career batting average with 3 home runs and 9 RBI in 114 plate appearances. He has shown a propensity to rarely draw a walk (4.4 %) and strike out at a high rate (26.3%). Each can be improved with more playing time.
Sanchez has found success in San Diego
Gary Sanchez has cooled off from the hot start to his Padres career. However, there is no denying that Sanchez has improved defensively behind plate. He has developed a connection with Blake Snell, who is 6-7 with a 2.71 ERA. The former AL Cy Young Award winner has allowed two runs in his last five starts (28 innings pitched). And you can expect another hot streak at the plate from Sanchez before season's end.
With the activation of Campusano, the Friars might be wise to alternate him and Sanchez at the DH position while the other is behind the dish. Still, the Padres front office has plenty of work before the trade deadline. But adding another bat to the lineup could help the Friars claw themselves out of the massive hole they have fallen into.
Now is the perfect time for the Padres to learn more about Campusano as a catcher. But he will need a long enough leash to develop a rapport with the pitching staff. At least, bringing him into the mix will help the front office determine if they must go shopping for a full-time catcher next winter.
If Campusano can clear this hurdle and play well, it might be a perfect match for the Padres to resurrect their season.