Tigers prospects Roberto Campos, Iverson Leonardo adjusting to new surroundings

Detroit News

These are not sexy numbers. No matter what your baseball age, no matter what level you’re playing.

Roberto Campos has a.214 batting average in 15 games. His on-base average is .267, with a .677 OPS.

Also note that three of his 12 hits have been home runs. More to the point, understand he is 18 years old and in his first year of professional baseball in the United States.

Now, the picture becomes clearer. Now, one can see, even at this embryonic stage, why a native Cuban who is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, two years ago was paid $2.85 million to sign with Detroit — the most money the Tigers then had ever handed an international talent.

Campos is a right-handed swinging outfielder. Tigers staffers talk about him incessantly, viewing him as their best chance at bringing to Detroit a brand of talent the international market hasn’t delivered in any abundance to Comerica Park.

He also is a pandemic victim — in baseball terms, anyway. Campos last year was supposed to be understudying in the Dominican (Republic) Summer League. He instead was sidelined, as were virtually all minor-leaguers.

This year he has moved to the United States and to full-time work at the TigerTown acreage in Lakeland, Florida. His new world is the Florida Complex League, which features two Tigers teams: East and West, with the West squad claiming Campos, as well as another outfielder who has the Tigers enthused: left-handed hitting Iverson Leonardo, who in 18 games is batting .233, with a .361 on-base average and .778 OPS.

Iverson turns 20 next month and compared with Campos is a codger, with farm experience that includes a 2019 season in the DSL. There, Iverson batted .333 in 58 games, with splits of .424 (on base), .566 (slugging), and .990 OPS. He had 30 walks and 44 strikeouts.

“Both are talented players with good bats,” said Dave Littlefield, who directs Tigers player development. “Obviously, Campos is a very high-end prospect with plus tools.

“Everything is very new for both of them,” Littlefield said, referring to the customary adjustment international players have to a new country and culture. “We’re high on both.”

Campos and Leonardo already have played their way into a rare conversation. They have a chance to be the first Tigers international outfielders of significant value since Detroit employed Avisail Garcia in 2012-13.

“Campos’ body reminds me a lot of Garcia,” said James Chipman, director of scouting at Prospects Live, who is based in Winter Garden, Florida, and who has watched Campos and Leonardo on the FCL fields.

“The profile isn’t as raw as I anticipated, especially at the plate. That being said, it’ll still be a bit of a slow burn, developmentally. It’s obviously power-over-hit at this stage of his development.

“His bat-path seems geared toward line drives at this point. He shows more loft in batting practice. His BP is loud — well-barreled contact that sounds like gun-shots.

“His timing and ability to track secondary pitches has already improved this season. There’s easy plus-bat speed and double-plus raw bat speed.

“He’s doing extremely well for someone his age. You can see things starting to click and adjustments starting to be made … Exposure to low-A (Lakeland Flying Tigers) at the end of the season would make sense.”

Campos’ defense is progressing without showing any particular signs of exceptionalism, Chipman said.

“He’s shown average defense in center field, with a solid arm. I think he’s pushed to a corner when all is said and done, due to his size.”

Leonardo never has had the billboard status of Campos. He signed in 2017, out of La Romana, Dominican Republic, for $275,000.

He “gained helium” with the Prospects Live staff, Chipman said, after his big 2019 season in the DSL.

Leonardo this summer has pretty much showcased the same skills, Chipman said, with “loud BPs” part of a 20-year-old’s profile.

“A big upper-cut bat path and a lot of loud outs,” Chipman said. “He shows you all the tools you like to see with that loud power. He’s someone who can hit for average, and he’s getting used to some of the more advanced pitching he’s seeing States-side.

“He has some definite prowess at all three outfield positions. I’ve only seen him in right field, and he’s looked fairly average, with the occasional late jump and bad route, but his speed has helped mitigate some of those concerns.

“He has that pop-up potential to put him in legitimate prospect status as long as he flashes those tools. He’s someone who runs pretty well, with a decent arm, and a power-production standpoint someone who can stay in right field for the Tigers.”

The Tigers won’t argue with outside appraisals there — on either Campos or Leonardo. They can wait on legitimate talent, as long as it qualifies as exactly that.

Lynn Henning is a freelance writer and former Detroit News sports reporter.

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