Christian Chamberlain had multiple reasons to continue his season when the Royals added him to their Arizona Fall League contingent.
The most obvious was that the 5-foot-10 lefthander needed to make up for lost time. Drafted in the third round in 2020 after a three-year career at Oregon State, Chamberlain lost his pro debut summer to the pandemic and then appeared in just two games in 2021 because of injury.
He was back on the mound in 2022. Chamberlain appeared in 33 games split between High-A Quad Cities and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Two numbers stand out when analyzing his performance: 13.2 strikeouts and 8.6 walks per nine innings.
Lowering his walk rate is an essential development goal for the 23-year-old Chamberlain.
“I was in a good spot to end the year,” Chamberlain said, “and was just trying to roll with that coming into the Fall League. The biggest emphasis was just filling up the zone.
“Stuff’s never really been the issue with me. It’s beating myself and being able to limit walks and hits.”
Chamberlain added that the formula for his success is getting that first strike ahead and peppering heaters early in counts, as well as mixing in his curveball more often in different counts.
The stuff that Chamberlain referenced is highlighted by a mid-90s fastball that can get up to 98 mph with nasty vertical movement.
“It’s a sneaky fastball from his slot,” one scout said. “Hitters don’t expect that velo and carry coming out of it.”
Chamberlain has the reputation of being a competitor on the mound, and there were times in 2022 when he got away from that ferociousness. A talk with one of the Royals’ pitching coordinators got him back to his usual self.
“I got that bulldog mentality back,” Chamberlain said, “and that’s when things really started to turn around for me.”
— Walter Pennington has one of the more intriguing backgrounds among the Royals’ AFL players. The 24-year-old lefthander pitched at Division II Colorado School of Mines and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He pitched his final year with the Orediggers in 2020, going undrafted when MLB cut the draft to five rounds because of the pandemic.
With a plan of going back to school for a fifth season, Pennington was pitching in summer 2020 at the amateur National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., when he was approached by a Royals scout and signed as a nondrafted free agent. He officially began his pro career in 2021 with a strong season at Low-A Columbia.
After just three games at High-A Quad Cities in 2022, Pennington jumped to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he pitched mostly out of the bullpen in 22 appearances. The Royals believe they have a sleeper in the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Pennington, who gets his fastball into the mid 90s and pairs it with an average or better slider.
“From his spring training to where he’s at right now,” his AFL pitching coach Julio Pimentel said, “he’s a complete package with a good two-seamer and really consistent with the slider.”