For one year, Sil Campusano was such a heralded prospect that people were thinking he would supplant the reigning Most Valuable Player.
In the end, he would up playing 154 games in the majors before finding success elsewhere.
Silvestre Diaz Campusano was born on the last day of 1965 in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He was signed as an 18 year old in 1984 as part of the Blue Jays successful scouting system.
For 3 straight years, Campusano was listed as the top prospect in the organization. Future major leaguers like Fred McGriff, David Wells, Nelson Liriano, Mike Sharperson, Todd Stottlemyre and Kelly Gruber were all ranked between 1986, 1987 and 1988. But each year Campusano was on the top.
He had speed, he had defense and power. His stats might not have popped off the back of the baseball card. But his skills had scouts drooling.
In fact, heading into the 1988 season, Campusano’s stock couldn’t be higher. George Bell, the left fielder for Toronto, won the MVP in 1987 and was part of the best outfield in baseball (with Lloyd Mosesby and Jesse Barfield.) But Campusano was so good, the Blue Jays were considering moving Bell to the DH spot to let the rookie play the field. Baseball America put him on their cover as “The Man Who Will Replace George Bell.”
On opening day, Campusano did indeed start. He was in center field with Moseby moved to left and Barfield in right. Campusano batted 9th. Fred McGriff batted 8th. In the 5th, he doubled but was stranded at second. Not a bad showing for his big league debut.
He homered in a 7-3 loss to the Yankees on April 13th. Those games were the exception not the rule for April. He batted .167 for the month with a ghastly .194 on base percentage.
He wasn’t much better in May where he hit .225 with a .620 OPS. By July, he was showing he simply was not ready for prime time, batting .186 and an on base of .234. He went back to the minors, George Bell’s job was secure.
Between August and September he had 10 more plate appearances for the rest of the year.
After spending the entire 1989 season in the minors, the Blue Jays removed their top prospect going into 1988 from their 40 man roster. The Phillies, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, picked up Campusano in the Rule 5 Draft.
He did not fare much better in Philadelphia. He hit .212 with a .586 OPS in 66 games for the 1990 Phillies. In a handful of games in 1991, he went 4 for 35 before spending the rest of the year in the minors.
While he never did play again in the majors, he found success elsewhere. He remained a star in the Dominican Winter League, winning the Caribbean Series, hitting for the cycle and playing along side many future big leaguers.
He played in Taiwan and won a home run title in the mid 1990’s with the Wei Chuan Dragons and Chiayi-Tainan Luka. Later he had success as a manager and coach in both Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
So Sil Campuano is a man of international success. He was born in the Dominican Republic, was praised in Canada, didn’t quite make it in America but prospered in China, Mexico and back in the Dominican Republic.
A round about path to success to be sure, but a memorable one.
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