The 2015 amateur draft begins one month from today, which means we’re now entering mock draft season. John Manuel at Baseball America released his first mock draft today — he’s going to publish a new one every Friday — and it’s free for everyone. You don’t need a subscription to read. The picks aren’t guesses either. They’re based on industry chatter and whatnot.
Manuel has the Diamondbacks taking UC Santa Barbara RHP Dillon Tate with the first overall pick but I’m guessing we’re going to see several different names in this spot in future mock drafts. There is no consensus top pick this year. The Astros and Rockies follow with Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson and Florida HS SS Brendan Rodgers with the second and third picks in the mock draft, respectively.
The Yankees have the 16th overall pick this year and Manuel has them selecting UCLA RHP James Kaprielian. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, a Southern California guy himself, has a known affinity for Southern California pitchers. LHP Ian Clarkin, RHP Ian Kennedy, and RHP Gerrit Cole are the most notable examples. Kaprielian fits right in. Here’s a snippet of his free MLB.com scouting report:
He didn’t have the best stuff in a U.S. collegiate national team rotation that included Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser and Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer last summer, but Kaprielian did have the best “pitchability” and is the safest bet to become a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues. He works with an 89-92 mph fastball as a starter, and he’s effective at that velocity because he can locate it.
Kaprielian’s best pitch is his changeup, and he also has a solid slider and a curveball to give batters a different look. With his command and strong frame, he’s built to be a starter.
Kaprielian is a big dude who’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 lbs. on UCLA’s site. He has a 2.35 ERA with 91 strikeouts and 22 walks in 76.2 innings this spring. Kaprielian isn’t a huge upside guy but he’s a no-doubt first rounder and the type of pitcher who tends to go higher than expected because he’s considered “safe.” Teams eat up this profile.
Oppenheimer confirmed last year the Yankees lean towards college players these days because they get to MLB quicker and don’t have as much development ahead of them, so the connection to Kaprielian makes sense. The Yankees also pick 30th overall this year — that’s the compensation pick for David Robertson — and could roll the dice with an upside play there. That’s what they did in 2013, when the took 3B Eric Jagielo with the 26th pick before shooting for the moon with OF Aaron Judge as the 32nd pick.