Scouting Report: LHP, Justin Kamplain

The New York Yankees selected left-handed pitcher Justin Kamplain in the 18th round of the 2014 MLB Draft out the University of Alabama. He had some immediate success in his debut season last year, even ascending quickly to the low-A level, and he brings an advanced level of pitch-ability that makes him one of the more intriguing 'sleeper' pitching prospects long-term.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Justin Kamplain
Position: Pitcher
DOB: February 13, 1993
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 190
Bats: Right
Throws: Left

He had one of the better professional debut seasons last year, combining for a 1.65 ERA and more strikeouts [46] than innings pitched [43.2] between short-season Staten Island and low-A Charleston.

"I felt like it went pretty good," Kamplain said of his debut season. "I felt like I carried my momentum that I had at Alabama on to my professional career as far as my command and my pitches, and keeping hitters off-balance with the three-pitch mix.

"I thought it was a good first year for me. I'm excited for the first full season coming up but as far as last year I thought it was a pretty good start."

It wasn't just the numbers that he posted that were impressive. Known for his stellar fastball-curveball command, he quickly saw the benefits of having an improved changeup and it's a pitch he believes came an extremely long way in a very short period of time.

"I think my changeup got better as the year went on," he said. "Once I started pro ball it just got better and adding that extra pitch to my fastball and my curveball really helped out.

"Just the comand of it -- for me the biggest thing with my changeup was having a feel for it. I really didn't have a feel for it at Alabama.

"I just kept messing around with it and throwing it and throwing it, and I was able to get a good feel for it and was able to command it in hitter's counts. That was really big for me, being able to command it. Continuously throwing it, I think that was the biggest thing for me."

Command is what he's known for though, however, not velocity. Armed with merely average fastball velocity, Kamplain enters the professional ranks with the oft-used 'crafty lefty' monicker.

"I don't throw my fastball full-out every time I throw it [though]," he said. "I like to mix my speeds up. I'm not going to say I left off a whole lot but I pick and choose my spots when I want to gear one up. I don't throw it full-out every single pitch though."

Able to hit his spots, Kamplain, standing just 6-foot-0 and entering pro ball at a slight 175 pounds, took to the task of getting stronger this offseason in the hopes of building up his strength and stamina, and perhaps squeezing out another tick or two on his fastball.

"That was one of the key things I've been working on" he admitted. "I've put on about 15 pounds. I feel better and my body feels better as far as working out. My arm is feeling stronger than ever now though working out here so I'm hoping I can get up to the mid-90s this coming year.

"It's never really been an issue with me in the past, not being a big thing. I think my body has held up well but it is one of the key things I wanted to work on this offseason and I've done that. My arm feels stronger, my body feels stronger so I'm excited to see how that's going to help."

Weighing in at a more respectable 190 pounds now, it remains to be seen how the added strength is going to help his game, a game which as it currently stands does not have a whole lot of weaknesses.

"Coming from Alabama I faced a lot of good hitters. I feel like that experience that I had at Alabama is going to help me in the minor leagues. Just coming from that conference and having a pretty good idea of how to pitch and what to do I feel like that's going to help me progress a little quicker in the minors."

There are some smaller nuances that he would like to work on in the short-term, however.

"I've talked about maybe adding a cutter but for me I've always been a big strikeout guy so for me picking and choosing when to go to the strikeout or when to pitch to contact to keep my pitch count down, that will be something I need to work on, pitching more towards contact in certain situations and keep my pitch count down."

He has both started and relieved back in college, and he not only believes he could thrive in either role but he's open to the idea of doing either or both at the professional level. He realizes the lack of a mid-90s fastball may not allow him to be perceived as one of the better pitching prospects right now but he is also extremely confident that his game is good enough to help contribute at the big league level someday.

"I believe so. I'm definitely not going to be that guy that goes up there throwing 96-97 mph but one of the big things for me is I know how to pitch. I know when to throw certain pitches and I also believe that I locate well.

"Not being able to throw 96-97 mph you have to be able to locate and I feel like I can do that pretty well. So yeah, I definitely feel like I can contribute and be one of those [big league] guys someday," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2014

Charleston

0-0

0

22.2

17

11

21

2.78

2014

Staten Island

1-0

1

21.0

9

2

25

0.43



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. Kamplain isn't actually a 'soft tosser' for a lefty. He sits mostly in the 89-92 mph range with both his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, both of which get a ton of running movement and natural tailing action. He throws predominantly four-seam fastballs but will mix in the two-seam which gets good dive to it, and it is incredibly hard for hitters to pick up the differences between the two. And while both pitches move quite a bit, he does a very good job of commanding both within the strike zone. Employing an effortless motion, there's also a little bit of deception to his fastball and that ease of motion does suggest that he could throw a tick or two harder if ever were to grip it and rip it more.

Other Pitches. Kamplain has two quality big league secondary pitches, both grading out as average or better. His secondary pitch of choice entering his debut season was his breaking ball. Neither a slider nor a true curveball, he generates good 'slurvy' action with a 78-81 mph breaking ball, one which resembles more of an 11-to-5 curveball. It is his main strikeout pitch and like his fastball he can locate it pretty much at will. His changeup wasn't nearly as bad as Kamplain leads many to believe when he first entered pro ball, it just needed some work from a command standpoint. Like his fastball, his changeup gets excellent running action and downward movement, and now he can control it like his other pitches.

Pitching. Kamplain has three quality big league pitches at his disposal and advanced control over them, the kind of combination that would suggest a real bulldog mentality on the mound. While he shows that in spurts and sometimes even in long stretches, he does tend to want to nibble the corners a little too frequently in an effort to make the perfect pitch. He is better served going right after batters early and often because he does have the kind of command of three pitches that makes him tough to face. His delivery is very advanced, very repeatable, and his extremely effortless motion is both deceptive and efficient.

Projection. Kamplain often gets unfairly criticized as a soft-tosser when he really isn't. He won't average in the mid-90s like some but he's got plenty of arm strength to sit 90-mph plus and the kind of stellar command of his secondary pitches that makes his fastball even more effective. He's not very big so the natural projection has him eventually settling in as middle reliever long-term. He actually compares somewhat to recently acquired reliever Chasen Shreve, another former college starting pitcher who later found more velocity when he decided to not be so effortless in his motion and aired it more in shorter stints. However, he's also got the depth of quality pitches that could make him a potential middle to back-end big league starting pitcher too. He gives the organization some real long-term options.

ETA. 2016. Barring an immediate move to the bullpen where he could move even quicker, Kamplain's game is advanced enough right now to move up to the high-A level to begin the 2015 season. If he were able to accomplish that feat, he would most likely receive some time in Double-A Trenton later in the year.


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