The Las Vegas 51s had their best year in quite some time. Wally Backman helped steer the franchise to their first PCL playoff appearance since 2002. Despite losing the best-of-five series to the Salt Lake Bees, it was still a successful season — especially considering the circumstances they had to operate under.
The big league team turned over the roster multiple times because of their needs in Flushing. While Sandy Alderson said most September call-ups would wait until the playoffs have concluded, important pieces like Zach Lutz and Matt den Dekker were called up before they could help the 51s in the postseason. One of the few constants throughout the season for Backman and Las Vegas was having Eric Campbell man the outfield. The Norwich, Connecticut native went on a tear after the All-Star break, finishing the season with a .314/.435/.475 line with eight home runs and 66 RBIs in 341 Triple-A at-bats.
In fact, while Campbell was helping the 51s secure a playoff spot in the month of August, the 26-year-old earned the honor of being the Topps Player of the Month award in the Pacific Coast League. Here’s what was said about him in the official announcement on MiLB.com:
Eric Campbell (26) of Norwich, Conn., batted .355 and paced the Pacific Coast League with a dozen doubles and a .474 on-base percentage. The Las Vegas 51s OF/1B ranked second in the PCL in walks (23) and hits (38). Campbell had multiple hits in 13 games last month and finished sixth with 13 extra-base hits. The New York Mets drafted Campbell in the eighth round in 2008 out of Boston College.
Needless to say, he had a fantastic month. While doing so, he collected one MMN Player of the Week award, and received an honorable mention a couple weeks later. Prior to the All-Star break, he posted a .284/.393/.458 line. He got hot after the break, hitting .357/.492/.500 in 45 games (140 at-bats).
The statistic that I enjoyed the most from his 2013 season was how he performed with runners on base. He took his game to another level, hitting .368/.483/.526, which is good for a 1.009 OPS. Comparing that to a .266 batting average with the bases empty, he clearly elevated his game when he had a chance to drive some runs in.
The next question is, what’s next for Campbell in the organization? He made his way to Double-A at the age of 23, but spent three years there before earning his promotion to Las Vegas at the start of 2013. In the big league clubhouse, there will be some interesting conversations when it comes to the outfield. Juan Lagares is playing his way into a significant role, but he could end up forming a platoon with den Dekker.
Early rumors point to New York targeting Shin-Soo Choo in free agency, and they may try and trade for another bat. Eric Young, Jr. will likely stick around as a fourth or fifth outfielder. Cesar Puello could get a look in spring training depending on what happens this winter, but he’ll probably be starting the season in Triple-A. It looks like Campbell could have an outside shot at being the fifth outfielder, but Andrew Brown has done a good job in a reserve role this season for New York, and could return in 2014.
It remains to be seen where Campbell will fit into the picture, and if he does with the Mets. If all goes to plan this off-season for Sandy Alderson and company, he’ll likely be starting 2014 in the Las Vegas outfield.