Ventura, California —— Hit play on the video above to watch Ventura College right-handed pitcher/infielder Taylor Campos throw a clean inning for the Pirates in their Thursday afternoon win against Cuesta College at VC’s home park.
A few things stand out about Campos on my first observation: first, his size. He’s just 5’9″, 145 lbs., and so that will ultimately limit him—especially as a pitcher—moving forward. But when you get beyond the size, there’s a lot of athleticism here, especially in short spurts as a relief pitcher.
On Thursday, he sat 86-88 mph. That’s not overpowering, but it came with good arm-side run and—when he got the ball down in the zone—some natural sink. He has good arm strength and the clean, short action you’d expect out of an infielder who steps on the mound. As he gets stronger, there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t add velocity to his working fastball, especially considering he’s not showing any overt mechanical flaws like arching his back as he drives to the plate to artificially max out his velocity numbers. Free and easy in the mid- to upper-80s with some movement is a great place to start for somebody who’s not yet 21 years old—especially with how much he fills up the zone and goes after hitters.
The real story here is Taylor Campos’ off-speed stuff, though. The Simi Valley product has a true, hard slider with good depth and tilt. He throws it hard (mid- to upper-70s), and it showed some late downward bite rather than flattening to a horizontal slurve. Judging by the Cuesta hitters’ reactions to it in the limited work I saw, it seemed like the slider is tough to pick up, with tight spin and a convincing fastball look right up until it breaks late and away from a right-handed hitter.
But I’m really in love with his third offering, some type of split/change pitch that was flat out disappearing down and arm-side as it crossed the plate on Thursday. It comes in a bit slower than the slider, but Campos’ arm speed and action sell the pitch exceptionally well, and whiffs and weak swings tell the story of Cuesta’s experience in this particular outing. When that pitch is on like it was in our video above, it’s a flat-out swing-and-miss pitch. It’s this pitch, if Campos proves he can maintain nuanced command and feel in every relief outing, that will be a difference-maker for him.
Campos reminds me a ton of Jimmie Sherfy, a right-handed pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ organization that I saw a few times last summer pitching for the Visalia Rawhide (coincidentally, Sherfy is from Camarillo and attended Newbury Park). There are differences, of course: Sherfy throws harder, and he’s also a bit bigger (listed at 6’0″, 175 lbs., though I think that’s generous). But Campos and Sherfy broadly do the same things with similar mechanics and arm action: they’re small relief pitchers who work very quickly; they’ve both figured out how to get around physical size and projection limitations to make their raw stuff work; and they aggressively fill up the zone with every pitch in their respective arsenals because they flat out can’t get away with pitching behind in the count.
Yes, Taylor Campos is small, and that’ll impact every decision and projection from college coaches and professional scouts moving forward. But he’s got good stuff, and if he adds velocity to what he’s doing now, without sacrificing some of the nasty pitch life he showed on Thursday, don’t be surprised if he sneaks up on some people pretty soon.
Lots more coming through the week from our time with Ventura College, including a few interviews and feature pieces. In the meantime, click here and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Through the rest of the spring and summer, you’ll get about 5,000 more videos like Campos’ from minor league prospects and college baseball players around the country.