Sometimes, change can be a good thing.
For 23-year-old righthander Chandler Champlain, changing organizations from the Yankees to Royals was an easy transition.
“It’s just a completely different style of coaching,” Champlain said of the Royals. “They have more of a broad idea perspective. You show them what your strengths are, and then they’re going to help you improve your weaknesses . . .
“The vibe here is very peaceful and has more of a family setting. You show up at the ballpark every day, and I’m happy to see my coaches and I’m excited to talk to them.”
Drafted by the Yankees in the ninth round in 2021 after three years at Southern California, Champlain didn’t pitch in his first summer after the draft. The Yankees instead worked on refining his arsenal of pitches.
His dynamic fastball now reaches into the high 90s, and he gets more spin on both his slider and curveball.
After 16 games for Low-A Tampa in 2022, Champlain was traded to the Royals as part of the return for Andrew Benintendi. He got into eight games for High-A Quad Cities, with mixed results.
The Royals had a plan for Champlain to follow in the offseason, and he came into spring training ready to take that next step forward.
“He’s a hard-working kid, very smart,” said Paul Gibson, the Royals’ senior director of pitching performance. “All of the things we put in front of him for the offseason plan, he addressed all of them—fastball command, his breaking ball usage—and he’s just attacking the zone this spring.”
In the past, Champlain pitched mostly with his fastball and two breaking balls. To stay in the rotation, he needed to improve his changeup and cutter.
“My changeup depth and movement have gotten tremendously better,” Champlain said, “It’s not going to be (among) my top three most-used (pitches), but it’s going to be something I’m going to have in the back pocket to surprise hitters.
“It’s going to get them thinking, and then I’m going to throw the cutter at them.”
— Lefthander Anthony Veneziano, a pick to click for 2022 before struggling with his control and command in his first taste of Double-A, and righthander William Fleming, acquired at midseason in the trade that sent veteran first baseman Carlos Santana to Seattle, were also among Kansas City’s standout performers during minor league spring training.