KC Royals Prospects: Hot pitcher just misses in Triple-A debut

Chandler Champlain pitched in his first Triple-A game Thursday.
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Chandler Champlain, the talented right-hander who MLB Pipeline considers the fifth-best pitching prospect the KC Royals have, pitched above the Double-A level for the first time Thursday night. Starting for Triple-A Omaha after his Monday call-up from Northwest Arkansas, he lasted six innings against Columbus, and pitched well enough to win.

But he didn't get his first Triple-A victory. The usually potent Omaha bats remained relatively quiet while Champlain did his work; he left trailing 3-1 after retiring Columbus in order in the sixth, then watched as his new teammates' tried to pick him up but scored only a run in their half of the frame.

Fortunately, though, the Storm Chasers exploded for six runs in the seventh, then added two in the eighth, and beat the Clippers 10-3.

So, what can Champlain take away from his first Triple-A game?

Chandler Champlain wasn't bad at all Thursday night

Champlain had some trouble with Columbus, but not a lot. The biggest bump came in the first when he found himself behind 2-0 after facing only two batters — José Tena led off with a single and scored when Juan Brito followed with a homer. Champlain gave the Clippers another run on a fourth-inning single

Other than those hiccups, Champlain was solid. He retired Columbus in order in the second and sixth and, thanks to catcher Brian O'Keefe gunning down Brito trying to steal, faced the minimum one other time.

Champlain also struck out three.

His Triple-A debut is the kind of performance the Royals want to see from Champlain, who they selected for the Spring Breakout Game during this year's spring training. If he works out as well in Omaha as he did this year and last for Double-A Northwest Arkansas — he was 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA in seven starts for the Naturals before joining Omaha, and 5-5, 3.82 in 14 starts for them in 2023 — he could see Kansas City before this season ends.

Oh, and those Storm Chaser bats...

Although many consider pitching wins a metric of diminishing value, they're still tracked and nice to have; had Omaha plated those six seventh-inning runs a frame earlier, Champlain would have had his first Triple-A victory.

But team wins are paramount, and the Chasers so often responsible for fueling the club's 30 wins were at the heart of the big late-game inning.

With one out, shortstop Ryan Fitzgerald, who's hitting .280 with a .366 OBP and six homers, singled. Left fielder John Rave, batting .285 with a .353 OBP, singled. And center fielder Drew Waters, whose .299 average and .368 OBP have a not insignificant portion of the Royals' fanbase demanding his return to Kansas City, did the same to load the bases.

Second baseman Nick Loftin, another Kansas City fan favorite whose .310/.412/.493 line may lead him back to the Royals, then dropped the bomb, a grand slam homer that gave Omaha the lead for good. Three batters later, designated hitter Nate Eaton homered home first baseman Logan Porter to make it 8-3; Eaton is slashing .336/.379/.565, Porter .341/.449/.634.

The Chasers' final pair of runs came on Fitzgerald's two-run homer in the eighth.

Omaha is 30-15 and leads the International League West by five games over Louisville and Toledo.

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