Kamplain Brings Versatility To The Table

It seems the New York Yankees are looking to bolster their arms factory in the coming years; the front office opting to select a whopping 26 pitchers in the recent MLB Draft. Among that crop of eager young hurlers is Justin Kamplain, a southpaw who's been noted for his tenacious, “bulldog” mentality. [Bonus draft feature article from the PinstripesPlus Draft Review issue]

While Kamplain’s physique is by no means behemoth, he certainly holds his own at a modest 6 feet, 170 lbs, and is equipped with some real pitch-ability.

For Kamplain, the journey began with signing his official contract on June 19.

After being selected in the 18th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, he decided to forgo his senior year at Alabama and begin his professional career with the Yankees.

Judging by his statistics, it’s evident that he made that most of his three years with the Crimson Tide, posting a 9-7 record with a 3.64 ERA in 50 games. Most impressively, he did all of this against an array of formidable Southeastern Conference opponents [including Vanderbilt, this year’s College World Series winner].

Mitch Gaspard, Kamplain’s head coach at the University of Alabama, believes Kamplain came into his own throughout his college tenure. He emphasized Kamplain’s impressive ability to keep three solid pitches under control.

“He really established himself in the Southeastern Conference this year as a three-pitch guy that was able to command all three of them. He put up some of the better numbers in our league this year,” Gaspard said.

Included in that trifecta of pitches is a tricky curveball, a swift fastball and a consistent changeup.

“He throws a changeup that was real consistent this year and has a strikeout pitch in his curveball,” Dax Norris, Kamplain’s pitching coach at Alabama remarked.

Kamplain also feels that his command is his strongest attribute, citing his ability to catch hitters off-guard as the primary reason why.

“I can command all three pitches and throw them for strikes,” he said. “I’m a bulldog out there and don’t take no for an answer. I give it everything [I have] every time I’m out there."

Though he pitched through the rigors of the SEC, squaring off against other highly touted prospects will be no easy feat in the coming years. With each year it seems the quality of talent increases exponentially in baseball, making it difficult to crack into the upper levels.

Kamplain, however, seemed unfazed by the pressures that come with donning the vaunted pinstripes.

“It’s a great organization and they expect to win here. I wouldn’t say I feel pressure though,” he said.

Coaches in the Yankee locker room can rest easy when it comes to handling Kamplain off the field. In talking to former coaches and players, Kamplain has been described as a “level-headed competitor.” In person, Kamplain is friendly yet reserved, making him a good meshing piece in a locker room full of strong personalities.

“He’s very coachable and willing to make adjustments to win and do well. He’s a complete pitcher,” Norris said.

Gaspard agrees.

“I think he’s a winner, he’s a guy who expects to win. He was a terrific teammate with his peers in the clubhouse. He’s an ultra-competitive guy and he’s all about winning. I think that’s where we’ve seen a lot of growth in his development both as a pitcher and a teammate,” he added.

As for the future, consistency will be crucial if he wants to elevate his game to the next level. If Kamplain can take his already impressive command to the point of being automatic, he could potentially be a deadly left-handed force in the team’s bullpen.

“I think he just needs to continue to work on his craft," Gaspard commented. "Command is always first when you get to that next level. Just commanding those three pitches consistently will be key."

Kamplain’s college coaches say they could see Kamplain excelling as a middle-relief, bullpen specialist in the big leagues someday. Gaspard noted his versatility and flexibility on the mound as one of his strongest attributes.

“I think that’s one thing that makes him interesting, he can pitch in many roles. He’s been a starter, he’s closed for us. Obviously that’s going to be their decision what they’re going to do with him,” he said. “I would assume he would be some type of bullpen guy down the road. But I also think he could be a spot starter as well since he’s comfortable with any role you put him in.”

For Kamplain, the key to success is clear: Be flexible.

“Wherever they need me, wherever I can be the most effective, that’s where I’ll be. I have no problem being whatever the team needs me to be,” Kamplain said.

It’s hard to argue with that attitude. By allowing himself to be moldable, Justin Kamplain is opening up a multitude of doors for his future and setting himself up to be an incredibly unique prospect.

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