Many scouts and experts said that the Yankees drafted the most polished pitcher in the 2015 amateur draft when they selected James Kaprielian with the 16th overall pick last June. Kaprielian, a UCLA product, was seen as a guy who had good command of three pitches and with his college experience and command could fly through the minor leagues and be one of the first pitchers in this draft class to make an impact in the Big Leagues. The Yankees and James hope that turns out to be true.
Kaprielian made his professional debut last summer making five appearances, three starts, in Rookie Ball and Low-A. He gave up about a hit an inning and struck out more than a batter an inning. The sample size is very small but everyone seemingly liked what they saw. The Yankees and Kaprielian are both very excited for James' first full year in pro ball.
Kaprielian has been trying to soak up the information and become acclimated to life in the Yankees organization. He said he has been working out with Nathan Eovaldi and has been working with Larry Rothschild and the Yankees minor league pitching instructors as pitchers and catchers get going. He also had a chance to meet with Derek Jeter at the Captains Camp.
NJ.com has a good report on Kap: "One of the things that Derek said, if you look at the big leaguers, is they're just more consistent than us," Kaprielian said. "So that's just one thing I'm trying to learn; how to be more consistent." That advice holds true for all big leaguers. All pitchers can throw strikes and all hitters can hit fastballs, it's the command and variation of pitches that gets the best hitters out.
Yankees vice president of player development, Gary Denbo, said of Kaprielian; "He's shown some leadership ability among the players. He's a big part of things here (in Captains Camp) and he's another guy we think that, over the long term, has an excellent chance to be part of the major league rotation."
On the hill, Kaprielian has shown good command of his fastball and his breaking ball has the ability to be a plus pitch. His change up has improved and should continue to develop. It's also been reported his fastball has topped out at 96, compared to the low 90's while he was at UCLA, and has added 15 pounds of muscle which helped build the velocity.
It's likely James starts his season at High-A Tampa as he begins his first full year in pro ball. Since he is ahead of many of the other players with his experience, he should be able to climb the organizational latter rather quickly and be in Trenton this summer. It seems like the Yankees are going to walk the line of rushing him through the levels if he shows ability to get guys out rather than baby him like teams do other pitchers.
Although he has a whopping total of 11 professional innings on the mound, Kaprielian could come into camp next spring as a starting rotation candidate but will obviously have to earn it this year. I love pitching and defense and love the hearing of pitching prospects with high ceilings, as we all do.
Based on all the reports and everything I've read and seen, Kaprielian could make his major league debut as early as 2017, with 2018 it being a likely scenario, if things go as he and the Yankees plan. I'll be keeping an eye on his progress this season and am very excited with what he could bring to our beloved Bombers.