Name: James Kaprielian
Height/Weight: 6’4’’, 200
Acquired: Traded to the A’s from the New York Yankees on July 31, 2017.
Injuries have limited James Kaprielian to only a handful of innings since he was drafted in 2015. Now nearly a year removed from Tommy John surgery, can Kaprielian get back on the mound and start moving up the Oakland A’s chain in 2018?
Ever since he was selected by the New York Yankees with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Kaprielian has had plenty of eyes on him. Unfortunately for Kaprielian, there haven’t been many opportunities for people to see him throwing off of the mound since his draft day.
The SoCal native starred for UCLA, posting a 2.06 ERA and striking out 275 in 252 innings for the Bruins over three seasons. Kaprielian also drew scouts’ notice during a stint in the Cape Cod League in 2013 when he posted a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings.
The A’s had interest in Kaprielian going into the 2015 draft, but the Yankees selected him four picks before the A’s took Richie Martin that year. After signing with the Yankees for more than $2.5 million, Kaprielian made his pro debut in 2015 with the Yankees’ Rookie-league squad in mid August. After two relief appearances, he joined the Staten Island Yankees and threw nine innings in the New York-Penn League.
Kaprielian was a non-roster invitee to spring training with the Yankees in 2016, and he wowed the big league coaching staff with a fastball that sat in the mid-90s and three usable secondary offerings. Kaprielian joined the High-A Tampa Yankees out of camp, but after three outings (during which he allowed only eight hits and three earned runs in 18 innings and he struck-out 22), he began to experience elbow discomfort. Kaprielian landed on the DL on April 26 and didn’t pitch again the rest of the regular season.
He was deemed healthy enough to pitch during the Arizona Fall League, and Kaprielian suited up for the Scottsdale Scorpions in 2016. He made seven appearances that fall and threw 27 innings. His ERA was 4.33, but he had a 26:8 K:BB and a 1.11 WHIP. His fastball averaged 95 MPH that fall and scouts were excited about the movement on all of his pitches.
Coming off of the big AFL performance, Kaprielian once again earned a non-roster invite to Yankees’ big league camp. He made only one official appearance during the spring in big league camp, but he had a normal minor league camp until the final week, when the pain in his right elbow returned. The determination was then made for Kaprielian to have Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in mid-April.
While Kaprielian rehabbed, the Yankees found themselves in position to make a run to the postseason. They traded their injured prospect to the A’s in a deal that netted New York Sonny Gray. The A’s also received outfielder Dustin Fowler and infielder Jorge Mateo in the deal.
Kaprielian is in the final stretch of his rehab and, thus far, things have gone according to schedule. He threw off the mound for the first time earlier this month. Assuming everything continues to go according to schedule, Kaprielian could return to games in May or June.
When healthy, Kaprielian offers a top of the rotation profile. His fastball averages 93-97 MPH and he can command it to both sides of the plate. He also has an above-average slider that is a swing-and-miss offering. Kaprielian changes speeds well with his changeup and eye-level with his curveball. At 6’4’’, 200, Kaprielian has a starter’s build.
Kaprielian will turn 24 next month and he has yet to throw a full season as a pro. Nevertheless, he came to pro ball with polish and once he is healthy, he may not need more than a season of minor league experience to reach the big leagues. The A’s are likely to be cautious with Kaprielian this season, limiting him to 100 innings. He may start with High-A Stockton, where the A’s front office would be able to keep close tabs on him.
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