If there’s anything good that can come out of this dismal May in Queens, it is the rise of Eric Campbell. After spending what some would call careers in the Mets’ farm system, Soup finally got his shot two and a half weeks ago and has made the most of it. Campbell has hit .333 with a home run, six RBIs, and .899 OPS in his first 24 major-league at-bats (and no double plays yet – remarkable!). He’s been no slouch in the field, either: though primarily a first baseman, Campbell made a game-saving catch in his lone start in left field last week against the Dodgers.
With the Mets desperate for anything offensively, and given Campbell’s flexibility in the field, Terry Collins should look to get Campbell as many starts as possible over the next month or so.
Is it likely that Campbell will be able to continue hitting at a .333 clip? Probably not. Sure, there’s always the slim possibility that we’ve come across the ultimate late bloomer who figured out hitting just as he reached his physical peak. In our dreams, maybe he’s the last offensive push for a team that truly is *this* close to making it (but that point is for another post).
More likely is that Campbell will turn out to put up numbers similar to Kirk Nieuwenhuis’s in 2012. If you’ll remember, Nieuwenhuis hit an exciting .325 during his first month in the bigs before regressing to just .223 over his next three. Soup is probably similar to Kirk in that he’ll be briefly electric before major-league pitchers figure him out. Even if Eric Campbell turns out to be that kind of player, we’re still in the middle of his first month. Why not get him out there while he’s still a hot commodity?
The Mets have plenty of holes up and down the lineup that could use Campbell’s spark. What’s great about Soup is that as a utility player, he can poach at-bats from more than just one guy. One possible scenario puts Campbell in left field most of the time and first base on occasion. Chris Young and Lucas Duda have been less-than-hot messes for most of the season, Young more so than Duda. So, when the Mets face right-handed starters, Campbell gets the start in left over Young; when they face lefties, Soup supplants Duda at first. This way not one but two positions get platooned until Young or Duda gets hot or Campbell cools off, whichever comes first.
So what happens when Campbell inevitably slows down at the plate, as Nieuwenhuis did in 2012? Here’s where Eric differs from Kirk: Soup will stay in Flushing because he is so darn useful.
He’s stronger at some more than others, but Eric Campbell can play all four infield positions and the two corner outfield slots. He may soon add a seventh position to his repertoire, as he is training to become the Mets’ emergency catcher. Every team could use a quality utility man, and New York needs one now that Justin Turner is gone. Take a look at the part-timers on the team now: Ruben Tejada is just a shortstop; Bobby Abreu is just a right fielder (in a broad sense); Wilmer Flores, while able to play other positions, will stay just a shortstop while the Mets evaluate him. Campbell is all of them in the field rolled into one. It is for that reason that Eric will have staying power in the majors after his hot streak at the plate comes to an end. (And if he can somehow throw a curveball, he’ll be set for life.)
We are still at a point when we are excited at what could happen when this 27-year-old rookie comes to bat. There will be a point when that feeling ceases and Eric Campbell becomes just a regular utility journeyman. But it has not come yet, and the Mets should get their fair share of Soup in left field and first base while he’s still coming out hot.