Name: Keyvius Sampson
Notable 2011 Stats: 2.90 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 8 HRA, 49 BB, 143 K, and 38% GB% in 118 IP with Fort Wayne (A)
Why He’s This High: Sampson put together a huge year in Low-A, striking out 10.91 batters per nine innings as a 20-year-old pitcher in the Midwest League. A fourth-rounder out of high school in 2009, he had a big year in the Northwest League in 2010 as well (12.14 K/9), so his 2011 didn’t come out of nowhere.
While he’s just 20, Sampson already has a complete three-pitch arsenal, as all three of his offerings flash plus at times. He works with a low-90′s moving fastball, a hard curveball, and a sinking, fading changeup. The quality of his offspeed offerings makes him very effective against both lefthanders and righthanders; in fact, he had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio against southpaws (73/23) than his fellow righties (70/26).
Why He’s This Low: A relatively small pitcher at 6’0″ 185, Sampson needs to show he can stay healthy. Shoulder problems caused his 2010 to end early, and he could only get through 118 innings this year. While he doesn’t have the platoon split problems to force him to relief, he could end up needing to move to the bullpen if he can’t maintain his arm through 180 innings in future years.
Sampson has some refinements to make with his command; his 3.56 BB/9 in 2010 and 3.74 BB/9 this season are skirting the edge of acceptability. As he moves up the ladder and his strikeouts likely drop, his mediocre control will come into sharper focus, and he’ll need to get more consistent with all three of his pitches.
At his small size, Sampson’s not very projectable, so he’s not likely to grow into more velocity; all the improvement he’s likely to make from here on is basically just refinement.
Conclusions: Sampson has the potential to be a frontline starter, as he has three potential plus pitches and a good idea of how to use them. He’s still far from the majors, though, and he has to get more precise with his locations if he’s going to realize his full potential.
Furthermore, he has to prove his shoulder can hold up for full seasons, or else he’ll just end up being a righthanded Erik Bedard even if his control does come around.
Sampson is a fast riser and definitely a pitcher to watch. Padres fans should be excited to see what he can do in 2012, but he’s not quite at the point where he should be counted on as a future top-of-the-rotation pitcher.
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