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Prospect Instinct 2012 | Keyvius Sampson, RHP San Diego Padres

 Keyvius Sampson, RHP San Diego Padres

 01/06/1991
Height: 6′ 0″ Weight: 185

T
he San Diego Padres selected right-handed pitcher Keyvius Sampson with the 114th pick in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB Draft. The Ocala Forest (FL) High School grad was selected by the Padres after OF Donovan Tate (Rd 1, Pick #3), OF Everett  Williams (Rd 2, Pick #52), and RHP Jerry Sullivan (Rd 3, Pick #83). However he has been best performer and is the highest rated of the group to date.
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Sampson jumped into play right after signing in 2009, though just briefly.  He posted a 3.38 ERA  and had 8/3 K/BB ratio in 8 innings over 4 games between the Arizona League Padres and the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League. Sampson would return to Eugene for the 2010 season but would battle both shoulder and elbow problems during the season, which was cause for concern. He posted a 3.56 ERA and had a 58/17 K/BB ratio in just 43 innings over 10 games. Heading into the 2011 season, the concerns about his arm remained. Sampson answered the questions by pitching in 118 innings over 20 games in the Midwest League with the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
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We discussed him in our June 2011 Touch’em All Midwest article:
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Keyvius Sampson, RHP Padres (20) – Sampson, based on the K numbers is dominating on his low 90s fastball so far this season. The K rate sits at 29% and he’s reigned in the walks since the start of the season. That’s in part thanks to better control of his curveball and the advancement of his second best pitch which is his changeup. Neither secondary is above average at this point but the changeup could be in the near future. His GB% is a little low for my taste at 40% but the high K rate makes up for that. He’s already mature looking for a 20-year-old so I’m not sure if there is any hidden velocity left which he would need to be considered more than a mid-rotation talent.
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We liked what we saw with Sampson and ranked him #8 on San Diego Padres 2012 Top 10 Prospect list, and then followed it up by ranking him # 97° on our Baseball Instinct 360° Top Prospect list for 2012. Here’s what we had to say back in January:
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97°. Keyvius Sampson, RHP, Padres, 1/6/1991 – There are still concerns about Sampson’s durability after a shoulder injury that cost him all but 43 innings in 2010.  This past season, he came back with a monster 12-3 mark, 2.90 ERA, an eye-popping 10.91 K/9 and a respectable 3.74 BB/9 rate over 118 innings in the Midwest League as a 20-year-old.  He has 3 out pitches and if he can tighten his command, he will be devastating at Petco. ETA 2015.
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Lets take a look at what Sampson has to offer when he’s staring down batters from the mound:
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The Stuff
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Keyvius Sampson currently has a small frame at just 6’0″ and there isn’t likely much more growth there. But his 185 lbs could certainly use some more growth which will help him stay healthy working as a starter. With a low 90s fastball with hard late life, Sampson has close to a plus offering, especially when he’s able to gear it up to 95. But in order to gear it up, his mechanics become a little aggressive.
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His 3.21 FIP tells me that the real 2.90 ERA was a product of something other than his performance only. The .268 BABIP Against is that something other. He will see that BABIP Against rise above the .300 mark as soon as this year and when that happens his ERA will spike.
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His changeup is an advanced pitch, not just for his age and level but overall, and is a well above average major league offering. It allows him to be as dominant against lefties as he is against righties, but at higher levels that change won’t be enough to hold off the lefties on its own.
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Oddly enough, it’s his breaking pitch that is a step or three behind his Fastball/Changeup combination. Fortunately, the breaking pitch is more easily taught than the feel for the changeup. So Sampson will likely spend the 2012 season focusing on the breaking pitch. He currently uses a curveball and despite his high end arm speed, the curve lacks any power break. So chances are it will be scrapped for a slider, a pitch that he can use that arm speed to power it through the zone for late break and bury it in on lefties.
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The Mechanics
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As mentioned with Sampson’s fastball velocity, he can get it into the mid 90s, but when he does there is extra effort that borders him on some stress on the shoulder.  With some additional weight to his lower half, his athletic delivery could produce more consistent mid 90s velocity without any of the additional effort.
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His mechanics are clean, especially after some tweaks following his rookie season. He still drops the ball down a little too far and that will need to be addressed, both for health issues to keep him from using his arm speed to catch up to his body and to keep higher level hitters from reading his grips.
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With his arm speed, he’s getting away with things that he will begin to pay for at the higher levels. The fix with the arm drop is an easy one and will allow him to stay more in sync as well as add some deception to his delivery.
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Our Instinct
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Keyvius Sampson could see some issues with his ERA in 2012 if he spends some extended time in the Cal League. His low GB rate, a product of not having a ready breaking ball, could lead to a flux of HR in the hitter friendly Cal environment. Throw in the fact that he will need to working on developing his breaking pitch and you have a mix for some adversity.
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How Sampson comes through the Cal will signal who he is going to be when he reaches San Diego. If comes through without a damaged psyche and with a shiny new working breaking pitch he has the upside of a high end #3 starter. If not, his current two pitch mix makes him a viable bullpen arm in the future.
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He’s an excellent talent with a lot going for him. And a lot of work to do in order to reach his ceiling. 2012 will be a telling season if you’re looking in the right places. If he struggles in the ERA and Wins categories look to the peripherals to see the real story.
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Stick with Baseball Instinct and we’ll keep you a step ahead of the game. Check back soon for more Prospect coverage. While you’re here, check out our Baseball Instinct 360° – it’s our top 360 prospects for 2012. Also check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be, so don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at mailbag@baseballinstinct.com.


Closing in on 25 years of following the greatest game in the world very closely. I can remember as a kid how excited I was when a player that I had watched in the minors make his major league debut. The same holds true today. We designed Baseball Instinct with that in mind; getting you the fan excited to get out and see the see the stars of tomorrow - today!

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