Earlier this week, the Padres announced they had acquired Shawn Kelley and in a corresponding move they designated right handed pitcher Keyvius Sampson for assignment. Sampson has previously been considered a top prospect in the Padres organization, but after a tough 2014 in AAA, the new management has decided to move in a different direction. The Brewers should take advantage of San Diego’s roster crunch and bring Keyvius Sampson into the fold in Milwaukee.
Sampson was drafted by the Padres in the fourth round in 2009, and will turn 24 on the 6th of January. He throws a hard, moving fastball that routinely sits between 93-95 mph, complementing it with a sinking changeup that was rated best in the Padres system in 2012 by Baseball America. Keyvius also adds a slider to the mix, but it is much less refined at this point. Sampson was added to the Padres 40 man roster in November of 2013, and he has two options remaining.
From 2009-2013, Keyvius was considered a prize in the Padres organization, ranking among the top 20 organizational prospects each of those years while topping out at #9 in 2013. During those years, Keyvius put up the stats to fit the bill. Sampson has the stuff to routinely post high strikeout rates, posting a 25% strikeout rate across 524.1 minor league innings. After a spectacular 2013 season in AA where he posted a 2.26 ERA, a career low 2.87 BB/9, and .197 batting average against, Sampson has seemingly hit a wall at AAA.
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Keyvius has thrown 129.2 innings at AAA over the last two seasons to the tune of a 6.80 ERA. The undoubted difference has been a sudden and inexplicable loss of command. While it had been considered slightly below average prior to AAA, his BB/9 rate has ballooned to 6.7, nearly double his figure from each of his previous minor league levels. This lead to Sampson’s transition to the bullpen in 2014, and given his lack of a trustworthy third pitch, he may be better suited to relief anyhow.
Bringing Sampson into the fold would be a low risk, high reward for the Brewers. AAA pitching coach Fred Dabney has a history of reforming pitchers with command issues. Guys like John Axford, Jim Henderson, and Jeremy Jeffress have all worked with Dabney before experiencing recent success in Milwaukee. Sampson would join Jarret Martin as the second high upside pitcher with command problems that the Brewers have added this offseason. If Keyvius can get his control problems ironed out to perform at even a passable level, his ability to miss bats could easily find him a spot in a major league bullpen. With two options remaining, it’s worth seeing if Sampson can improve with proper coaching over the next two seasons in the minors.
The Brewers have been doing a lot to try and fortify their farm system over the last few seasons. Pitchers acquired like Wei-Chung Wang and Jarret Martin are two guys that were acquired in under-the-radar transactions that could contribute to the big league club for several years going forward. Keyvius Sampson is a low-risk, high reward pitcher that would fit the bill for the kind of pitcher the Brewers like, and Milwaukee would be wise to roll the dice on the young righty.