James Kaprielian | RHP
Kaprielian, 21, was a second or third round talent out of high school in 2012, but he was very strongly committed to UCLA. The Mariners rolled the dice in the 40th round but couldn’t sign him. Kaprielian spent his freshman season in the bullpen (1.55 ERA in 40.2 innings) before moving into the rotation as a sophomore and taking over as the staff ace. He had a 2.29 ERA with a 108/35 K/BB in 106 innings last year and has a 1.94 ERA with a 105/27 K/BB in 92.2 innings so far this year.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 lbs., Kaprielian was a classic projectable high school pitcher, and he’s developed into basically the opposite of what was expected. Instead of filling out and adding velocity, he’s become a much more well-rounded pitcher with the Bruins, one who throws four pitches for strikes. His fastball sits mostly 89-92 mph and he will show some 94s on occasion. Kaprielian’s best secondary pitch depends on the day – some days it’s his changeup, some days it’s his slider, and other it’s his curveball. The changeup is his most consistent offspeed pitch and he’ll throw it in any count, to both lefties and righties. Kaprielian has a great feel for setting hitters up and his command is better than solid thanks to his ultra-repeatable delivery. He’s as close to a finish product as you’ll find in this draft.
Baseball America, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and MLB.com ranked Kaprielian as the 19th, 27th, and 28th best prospect in the draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. For what it’s worth, Kaprielian has been connected to the Yankees in Baseball America’s first two mock drafts, which makes sense since he’s a Southern California pitcher and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer loves SoCal pitchers. Kaprielian doesn’t offer a ton of upside but he should climb up the minor league ladder in a hurry, and is a safe bet to carve out a career as a workhorse starter, pending good health. The Yankees pick 16th and 30th this year and I don’t think Kaprielian will last long enough to take him with that 30th pick. It’s 16th or bust.