Name: Keyvius Sampson
DOB: January 6, 1991
Sampson came down to the wire, signing on August 17 with the Padres – the last day that they could negotiate a deal with their fourth-round draft pick.
After building his arm strength back up, Sampson worked in two games for the AZL Padres. He allowed one run and one hit over three innings while striking out three.
Quickly moved up to short-season Eugene, Sampson worked five frames, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks while fanning five.
"You shake hands with him and your hand disappears in his hand," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch began. "You go, ‘Holy Jesus, give it back.' Big hands. You've got to be excited. He is a high potential player. Somebody did their homework."
Sampson went on to the Padres fall Instructional League but was shutdown after just four innings of work due to soreness felt in his rotator cuff. He reported that he was fine as it drew to a close but the Padres preferred to keep him out of action as a precautionary measure. He allowed just one run on two hits and three walks while fanning five during his time there, throwing a first-pitch strike 71.4 percent of the time.
The Forest High School alumnus went 9-1 with a 0.84 ERA and 134 strikeouts as a senior and was named to the Aflac All-American game where he struck out two in his lone inning of work.
Sampson has a plus fastball that sits in the 89-93 area and has topped out at 97 mph. He has such a free and easy motion that the ball appears to come out even harder, challenging hitters' fast-twitch muscles. The ball also has nice downward movement and is a weapon early in the count with his ability to spot it to both sides of the plate. He is not afraid to challenge hitters inside, getting their feet moving to open up the outer half of the plate.
"He is a strike thrower with a heavy ball," former AZL Padres and current Fort Wayne manager Jose Flores said. "A good competitor. I look to see good things from him."
Armed with a plus curveball that comes in at 76-80 mph, Sampson throws the hammer with strikeout intent. It is a true swing-and-miss pitch that needs just a little more tweaking to find a tighter break. It has 12-to-6 tendencies and can be a plus-plus pitch with some mechanical work that cuts his arm off by throwing across his body and doesn't allow for the natural spin of the ball to have its maximum effect.
His changeup has a chance to also be a special pitch. It is one that he is working on but has been hitting spots at 83-85 mph, providing a nice separation between his pitches. He dropped his curveball during his senior season to work on his changeup and has been throwing a steady diet of slips to hone his craft. He is adept at using it on the back of his fastball on the outer half of the plate to get weak contact and strikeouts.
There are a few things he needs to clean up mechanically. He puts too much strain on his arm, at times, when he finishes his delivery by ending his motion across his body rather than towards home plate. That is a heavy burden on his shoulder. While the ball leaves his hand clean, the follow-through will hamper his control of off-speed pitches and their movement. Finishing ahead of his body will help harness his control and turn two quality pitches – the curveball and changeup – into above-average offerings.
Mature far beyond his years – some from circumstance that led to a tough childhood that included run-ins with the law and the loss of his mother – Sampson is a grounded individual that has taken a lot from his past to serve him well into the future. He understands that this is a privilege and works hard to ensure his success. Abandoning his curveball during his last year in high school is just one example of his grasp of the big picture.
"Great makeup, good attitude, dedicated," Riddoch said. "All the stuff. I only had him a couple times, we pitched him a couple times. I think he threw a few innings down in Instructional League, and gave up one hit and no runs and struck out three or four and he's 18.
The Florida native does not get rattled by pressure and has an easygoing demeanor that exudes confidence when he gets on the mound. He understands pitch sequencing, which is not a common trait for an 18-year-old and believes in pitching to his strength.
"The impression I got is he is a bulldog," Flores said. "He wants the ball. He is not afraid to come inside and brush somebody back.
"Those are the things I got from him about brushing people back and coming inside – not being afraid to do this or not. He showed me that a couple of times when he pitched."
Conclusion: Sampson has three big league pitches that will grade out above average when all is said and done. He already has the mentality to succeed and a willingness to be the best. He could use some additional strength and minor tweaking mechanically. With a projectable body frame, it is only a matter of game experience before he reaches a high ceiling. He could move quickly with the potential of a No. 1 starter at the big league level.
Keyvius is pronounced ‘Keevus'
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