Padres Prospect Report: Matt Hampton

Scouting Padres prospect Matt Hampton

The San Diego Padres have had some success with undrafted signings at either tryout camps or out of the Frontier League. Matt Hampton is one of those finds. A 6-4, 220 pound lefthander that was playing for the Chillicothe Paints in 2001, he was signed by the Friars and headed to Double A.

After Brian Tollberg, a Paints alum, had some success with the Padres organization and made it to the big leagues, the Padres signed Matt Hampton in hopes that he would have similar success. Hampton is looking to follow suit and in two years with the organization has made it to Triple A and seen a stint in the AFL.

"A great story because he did not get signed out of college, was out of baseball working in coaching, and then got a chance in independent ball and that led to a shot with the Padres," said Mobile BayBears announcer Tom Nichols. "Had major surgery last spring and missed a good portion of the season."

"If he gets to the majors, it will be a great story. When he didn't get signed out of college and was coaching, I doubt if he ever envisioned pitching in the minors, more less the majors. Padres signed him out of the Frontier League and he made his affiliated debut at the Double-A level, again, something you rarely see. So he jumped from college to Double-A with just one year in the Frontier League as a bridge."

Hampton is hoping to come full circle. Back in 1998, he pitched seven shutout innings to lead his then No. 10-ranked Washington Huskies to an 8-5 win over New Mexico at the San Diego Baseball Classic at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

"Hampton went straight to Double-A and had success," Jim Callis said. "He's a lefty reliever who throws 88-90 mph consistently and also uses a slider and changeup."

In 2002, Hampton did nothing to say he was out of place. Playing for Mobile, he pitched in 94 innings, striking out 98 and compiling an ERA of 3.54 with a WHIP of 1.28.

"He has a great physical stature and throws in the 90s," Paints manager Jamie Keefe said. "I am just glad to see he is doing well."

After showing he belonged, he was promoted to Triple A for 2003. He did not have the same success he had the previous season and posted a 5.83 ERA, a WHIP of 1.58 and 36 strikeouts in 46.1 innings pitched. Despite the lack of success the Padres were sending lefty relievers out to the AFL and Hampton was one of those chosen.

He recently completed what turned out to be a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League. Pitching in relief for the Peoria Saguaros, Hampton went 1-0 with a save, and a 1.59 ERA in seven appearances. He also struck out 14 batters, while walking just one.

Hampton will begin his third season in the San Diego farm system in the spring, at 26 years old. Due to his late start he remains on the prospect list but time is running out. Jim Callis does not think that is a problem.

"You could see him in San Diego in the near future," Callis said. "He throws strikes."

With the team needing a lefty reliever, Hampton could be on call to make the trip between Portland and San Diego in 2004. Then he will have come back to where this trip all began when he was with Washington.

Notes:

Oddly enough the Paints sold the contract of Grant Gregg, another closer, to the Padres. Gregg has often been compared with Hampton. He is also a southpaw and his size, 6-3, 230, is similar to Hampton.

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Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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