In what seems like a yearly tradition, the Tampa Bay Rays have called up a young talent who looks like he will be making noise in this league for a long time, Junior Caminero seems like he will be a very good player and could impact the playoff race as soon as he makes his debut. The 20-year-old skyrocketed up the Rays minor league system and up almost everyone’s prospect rankings and is now getting his first shot at MLB. As we await his MLB debut, here are four reasons Junior Caminero will be great.
Four Reasons Junior Caminero Is Going To Be Great
1. He Has Crushed Minor League Pitching
It’s always tough to use a player’s results in the minors to project how they will play in the majors and Caminero has made it even more difficult by skipping Triple-A entirely, but he has just thoroughly dominated the minor leagues he has played in. He started the season in High A where hit slashed an unbelievable .356/.409/.685 over 159 plate appearances for a wRC+ of 190. He also hit more home runs than every minor league player in their age 19 season or younger with 31 and in High-A he had the fourth-highest slugging percentage of anyone in any minor league. Those numbers show the kind of power Caminero has.
More impressive than those numbers though are his process and his development. While he was tearing up High-A he was striking out 25.2% of the time and walking 6.3% which is fine but it isn’t great. When he was called up to Double-A, he started making elite swing decisions striking out just 17.1% of the time and walking 9.1% of the time. That is a major swing that shows that he isn’t just another all-or-nothing power guy, he has unbelievable power without having to sell out and strike out a ton. He cut down on his strikeouts, increased his walk rate, and still managed a 140 wRC+ over 351 plate appearances in Double-A. He is only 20 years old and is already a great hitter with elite power who is only going to improve.
2. The Scouts and Rankings Love Him
While almost the entire baseball community was surprised by his call-up this week, no one in the industry thinks he isn’t ready to play in MLB. He is a consensus top-10 prospect, ranking fifth in The Athletic and Baseball America’s rankings and sixth on the MLB.com rankings. As well, Baseball Prospectus has listed him as a future all-star in their scouting report. Caminero’s scouting grades and projections reflect the enthusiasm the rankings share about him. On the 20-80 scouting scale (where 50 is an average MLB player) his power is generally listed around 60-70, his hit tool between 50-60, and is generally considered average in the field and on the basepaths.
He is 6’1 and 157 pounds and can generate elite bat speed which leads to extremely impressive exit velocities that would be considered elite even at the major league level. Scouts see Caminero as an extremely athletic player who is going to get stronger as he matures in his 20s. When he played shortstop he showed solid athleticism in the infield and since being moved to third base he has shown an impressive throwing arm and solid reaction time. Scouts and analysts agree that he is one of the best overall hitters in the minors and might have the best raw power of any prospect. The only knock on him offensively is that his ground ball rate is a little high and the only knock on him defensively is his occasional inconsistency. Despite this though the industry believes he is one of the best all-around prospects in the game.
3. He Has A Lot Of Experience For A 20 Year Old
This may seem like a strange thing to say, but he has already played in over 220 minor league games and has amassed almost 1,000 plate appearances in those games. Caminero started in the Dominican Summer League when he was 17 years old where he put up a wRC+ of 144 over 171 plate appearances and hasn’t slowed down since. He has been steady every season after that, never posting a wRC+ below 137 at any level over his three professional seasons.
This is all even though when he plays his first big league game he will instantly become the youngest player in MLB having just turned 20 in July. His projections reflect that consistency, Steamer and Fangraphs both project his wRC+ to be 110 this season. Two projection systems, systems which are generally very conservative with young prospects, expect him to be 10% better than average this season, a season when he was called up in the middle of September and is the youngest player in the league. That reflects the consistency he has shown and the fact that he has been an elite hitter at every level he has played since he started his professional career.
4. He Is In The Right Place at the Right Time
His being in a great situation is partially attributed to the fact that he is in the Rays organization, a great place for young players to develop and establish themselves, but it is a great situation for Caminero for a variety of reasons. As with other prospects, the Rays will put him in the best situations possible for him to succeed and additionally, he will get more opportunities now than many would have previously thought.
With his recent move to third base and his ability to play second, third, and shortstop he has opened up the door for several opportunities for playing time in a Rays infield that is suddenly in flux. With Brandon Lowe and Luke Raley potentially missing time due to injury, Caminero looks like he will be able to get some starts at third base over the season’s last few games, splitting time with Isaac Paredes and Curtis Mead. Next year is when the opportunity looks best though, with the Wander Franco situation still in doubt, it seems like Caminero may not only be a regular in 2024 but also be an impact bat on a likely very competitive Rays squad next season.
Overall, Junior Caminero has shown that he is one of the most promising young players in the game. He has shown his extremely unique skill set and physical gifts in addition to his impressive development and strong approach at the plate. As well, he has already shown consistency despite his young age and is going to get chances to display his talent on a competitive Rays team for years to come. Look for Caminero to make an immediate impact in the Rays lineup and off the bench this season, and wait until next season to see what a full season of a talent like this, at this age, will look like.