The San Diego Padres drafted Luis Campusano in the second round last year, capping an impressive rise that elevated him to the top catcher in his class.
The Georgia native and son of former minor leaguer Genaro Campusano, he had long been on the showcase circuit. But during his senior year, Campusano made strides defensively, and with his conditioning.
“The one thing he did,” Padres scouting director Mark Conner told us right after the draft, “he really worked his body into tremendous shape and continued to evolve as a catcher.”
While a concussion limited his exposure behind the plate in the Arizona League, he hit the ball with authority through the summer. The performance impressed decision-makers in the organization.
“He has a quick short swing,” Sam Geaney said at the end of the season. “We feel confident he will hit and has a chance to be an above-average defensive player.”
Campusano used his offseason to continue to develop. Now 19 years old, he reported to Peoria at 205 pounds.
We talked with him there about how he prepared for his first full season, and the organization experimenting with him playing first base during spring.
MadFriars: After the whirlwind last year from the draft into your pro debut to instructs, what are the things you want to focus on as you got back out here this year?
Luis Campusano: I never wanted to be complacent. I took this offseason as if I was getting ready for the draft again, the same mindset. You know, continue to work your butt off and do what you did to get here and build from that.
Did you do your work at home?
Luis Campusano: Yeah, I went back home, but came back here to Arizona a few times around to train here. I was just going back and forth, so it was all good.
You really came on a lot in the year prior to your draft as you developed. So when you say work like you did going into the draft, what do you prioritize?
Luis Campusano: Everything’s a priority right now. My catching comes first, and my hitting comes second. I’m just making sure I can be the best that I can every day. I want to bring the same positive attitude to the field and to the gym, and just continuing to become the best baseball player I can be.
Because of your dad’s career, you came in with more of a knowledge base about the pro game than some of the other guys. In what ways is that an advantage for you?
Luis Campusano: Just being around the game, being familiar with what was going to happen. I didn’t come here not knowing about anything, but I came a little prepared – I took that from my dad and all the other professional baseball players I had around coming up in my family. It was good to take in and to know that I could go to them and talk to them. I’m glad I was prepared for it.
Have there been things that have surprised you, in terms of the work or the approach?
Luis Campusano: I’m so used to working my tail off, it just comes naturally. So, it’s just continuing to build off what you learned previously. The other thing with playing every day, the grind is having the same attitude every day. If you don’t feel 100%, can you have consistent effort, consistent work ethic. I think that’s what really matters the most, and trying to get your day going.
I look at a day like you have in spring training – you catch a couple sets of bullpens, you work out at first base, then you’re out in a game setting. What did you do during the winter to build strength and prepare yourself for a full year.
Luis Campusano: I just prepared my body the best way I could. Even though it was my first offseason, it’s not like I didn’t have a clue about what I wanted to do. But, it was just continuing what I always did, even as an amateur. Get stronger, hit the weights, eat properly, and other things will take care of themselves.
The thing we hear from everyone, and saw this spring, is that you’ve just been hitting the ball hard consistently. What’s your approach and focus at the plate?
Luis Campusano: I’m just trying to have a clear mind and not really think about anything. Just finding something you can handle and put a good swing on it.
How much of your learning and development is about working with the pitchers?
Luis Campusano: It’s been great. I put a lot of priority on my catching. I like watching a lot of film on guys, and before I’ve even come across them, I kind of know what they’re throwing. I take a lot of pride in what I do, and that part of my job. I’ve learned so much, and it’s been a fun ride so far.
We saw you work at first base some this spring. When was the last time you played first base with any frequency?
Luis Campusano: It was probably my sophomore year. Going into my junior year is when I was going to be a catcher, so I kind of just forgot about it and did all the catching work. Then I came back here and they’ve got me playing first. It’s natural, it’s easy. I’m just taking ground balls and getting my reps so I can be the best first baseman I can be.