2015 Draft: Yankees select UCLA RHP James Kaprielian with first round pick

(Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

For the third straight year, the Yankees went to the college ranks with their first draft pick. The Yankees selected UCLA right-hander James Kaprielian with their first round pick, the 16th overall selection, in the 2015 draft Monday night. They had been connected to him for weeks now.

Kaprielian, 21, had a 2.02 ERA with 114 strikeouts and 33 walks in 106.2 innings as UCLA’s ace this spring. He also threw the first nine-inning no-hitter in school history. Here’s my profile and here are some scouting report snippets from the pros.

Baseball America (19th ranked prospect):

Kaprielian knows how to finish hitters off when he’s ahead in the count, with a plus curveball as his best pitch. He can land it, vary the shape of it and bury it as a chase pitch, and his feel for the curve is his strongest attribute. He has dabbled with a slider as well but has focused on the fastball, curveball and solid-average changeup for most of the spring … In several April and May starts, his velocity improved, bumping 95 and holding 92-93 deeper into games.

MLB.com (22nd ranked prospect):

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.

Keith Law (27th ranked prospect):

Kaprielian will sit 90-94 mph, working more toward the low end of that spectrum from the stretch. He relies heavily on his slider and curveball, with the former being the superior of the two; it has short but sharp two-plane movement in the mid-80s. His curveball bends in between 78 and 81 mph and has more depth than the slider, but is merely average. He does an excellent job of keeping both down in the zone (or below) and limiting hard contact. Kaprielian’s changeup is firm at 84-86 mph. He barely uses it, but scouts are very intrigued by it and think it might develop into an above-average or plus pitch.

So one scouting report says Kaprielian’s best pitch is his changeup and another says it’s his curveball, which just reinforces the fact that the draft is a total crapshoot. Who knows what’s true? Kaprielian is listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 lbs., so he has the size scouts like to see in future starters. That’s pretty much the only consensus too, that Kaprielian can remain a starter long-term. Here’s some video:

It’s no surprise scouting director Damon Oppenheimer targeted a South California pitcher. He’s a SoCal guy himself and selected others like Gerrit Cole, Ian Clarkin, and Ian Kennedy from the area during his time with the Yankees. It’s also no surprise the Yankees went after a college player — Oppenheimer has admitted the team has learned towards college players in recent years because they’ve had more success developing them.

Kaprielian doesn’t offer ace upside but he does project to be a workhorse starter, and teams spend tens of millions of dollars on those guys each year. I would have preferred someone with a higher ceiling with the top pick — even if it meant taking on more risk — but the Yankees opted for a safer player and that’s fine too. Kaprielian was a no-doubt first rounder all year, so this wasn’t a surprise pick or anything. Slot money for the 16th overall pick is $2,543,300 and the signing deadline is Friday, July 17th. I expect Kaprielian to sign for that amount sooner rather than later.

2015 Draft: Day One Open Thread

2015 Draft logoThe Yankees have an off-day today, so instead we’ll get to focus on a pretty important day in franchise history. Important in the history of every franchise, of course. Today is Day One of the 2015 amateur draft, and there will certainly be several future All-Stars will be selected today. Maybe a future MVP or a Cy Young Award winner. Maybe even a Hall of Famer or two. Careers have to start somewhere, and for many, they will start these next three days.

A total of 75 picks will be made tonight. That covers the First Round, Supplemental First Round, Competitive Balance Round A, Second Round, and Competitive Balance Round B. The Yankees have three picks tonight: 16th, 30th, and 57th overall. That’s their first and second rounders sandwiched around the compensation pick for David Robertson. The Braves lead the way with five picks on Day One. Here’s the full draft order.

Depending on who you ask, the Yankees are looking for either a bat or an arm with their top pick. Who knows? There were a lot of conflicting reports this year, even more than usual. That’s fine, I like surprises. The strength of this draft is right-handed pitching, both high school and college, and the Yankees could use some arms for their position player farm system. Of course, teams don’t draft for need. At least not the smart ones.

“We have worked on this a long time and are ready to take advantage of all our observations,” said amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer to Zach Braziller recently. “All the info we got is that we are going to go after the best available player. It doesn’t have to be a pitcher or a player, a high school player or a college player. It will be the best available guy.’’

For the first time basically ever, I don’t really have a preference for whom the Yankees draft tonight. This isn’t a particularly strong draft class and I didn’t get attached to anyone. New York HS OF Garrett Whitley would be cool though, mostly because he is considered to have a tremendous amount of upside. You can read my profile on Whitley and 23 others in our 2015 draft coverage archive.

The draft broadcast will begin at 7pm ET and you can watch live on both MLB Network and MLB.com. There will be a one-hour pre-draft show starting at 6pm ET as well. Here are Baseball America’s Top 500 Draft Prospects and MLB.com’s Draft Tracker for reference. We’ll have posts covering each of the Yankees’ three picks tonight, of course. Use this thread to talk all things draft. Enjoy.

2015 Draft: Final Mock Drafts, Bickford Fails Drug Test

The MLB Network studio is ready. (Photo via @MLBDraft)
The MLB Network studio is ready. (Photo via @MLBDraft)

The 2015 amateur draft will begin in about five hours now, so, to hold you over, here are a bunch of last minute draft links, including the final mock drafts. Common theme: no one has any idea who the Yankees will pick.

Baseball America’s Mock Draft v5.1

John Manuel at Baseball America posted his final mock draft this morning and he has the Diamondbacks taking Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick. Manuel has the Yankees selecting UCLA RHP James Kaprielian and Cal Poly Pomona RHP Cody Ponce with their top two picks, 16th and 30th overall, respectively. Here are my profiles on Kaprielian and Ponce. Baseball America has been beating the “the Yankees will take pitching” drum all spring, and those two guys have been mentioned as targets for a while now.

Keith Law’s Mock Draft v4.0

Keith Law (subs. req’d) also has the Diamondbacks taking Swanson with the first overall pick in his latest mock draft. Swanson to Arizona is the consensus now. Meanwhile, Law has the Yankees selecting Georgia HS SS Cornelius Randolph and Florida State OF D.J. Stewart with those 16th and 30th overall picks, respectively. Here are my profiles on Randolph and Stewart. The Yankees drafted Stewart out of high school in the 28th round of the 2012 draft but obviously did not sign him. For what it’s worth, Law hears the Yankees are connected to a slew of bats, including “several of whom … seem unlikely to get (to the 16th pick).”

MLB.com’s Mock Draft v5.0

Both Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo posted their final mock drafts this morning as well (they’re combined into one article), and yes, they both have the D’Backs taking Swanson. As for the Yankees, Callis sees them taking Kaprielian and Michigan HS OF Nick Plummer with their top two picks while Mayo has them selecting New York HS OF Garrett Whitley and California HS C Chris Betts. Here are my profiles for Plummer, Whitley, and Betts. The Yankees have been connected to all of those guys in recent weeks. Callis and Mayo also say the Yankees could opt for Randolph, Tennessee HS RHP Donny Everett, and Kentucky RHP Kyle Cody. Here are my Everett and Cody profiles.

Bickford Tests Positive For Marijuana

During a pre-draft drug screening, College of Southern Nevada RHP Phil Bickford tested positive for marijuana, reports Teddy Cahill. MLB conducts a pre-draft medical program for the top 200 prospects according to the MLB Scouting Bureau — if a player doesn’t participate, he is ineligible for the draft — and part of that is random drug testing. MLB players are not tested for marijuana but non-40-man roster players are. Bickford is a projected first round pick — here’s my profile, he went tenth overall in 2013 but did not sign — but I don’t think the positive test will hurt his draft stock. Rockies RHP Jon Gray tested positive for banned stimulant before the 2013 draft and he still went third overall. Teams won’t be scared away by a 19-year-old smoking a little weed when he strikes out 166 in 86.2 innings like Bickford did this spring.

2015 Draft: Brady Aiken

Brady Aiken | LHP

The 19-year-old Aiken was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft out of a San Diego high school, but his deal with the Astros fell apart when the team found some red flags in his elbow. The two sides reportedly agreed to a $6.5M bonus before the physical, then Aiken later rejected a reduced $5M bonus. Aiken opted to do a post-graduate year at IMG Academy in Florida rather than attend a four-year college, allowing him to re-enter the draft this year. Aiken blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in April, and reportedly it was something more complicated than a routine ligament reconstruction.

Scouting Report
Aiken, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 lbs., looks the part of a first overall pick when healthy. He sat 92-94 and touched 97 before getting hurt, and it played up because Aiken could sink it and locate the pitch exceptionally well. A tight curveball is his go-to secondary pitch and was a legitimate put-away offering before his elbow gave out. Aiken also threw an advanced changeup that gave him the potential for three well-above-average pitches. A clean and repeatable delivery helped him command all three pitches, though the fact that he has such a smooth delivery and still blew out his elbow creates concerns about his future durability. Aiken has drawn big time praise for his makeup, especially after he took the Astros ordeal and Tommy John surgery in stride.

Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Aiken as the 22nd, 24th, and 27th best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, respectively. Kiley McDaniel says Aiken’s camp has made his medical information available to teams, and while that isn’t uncommon, it is a little weird they’re making it available only by request and with special instructions. They’re trying to limit leaks, basically. The Yankees are reportedly steering clear of injured pitchers like Aiken, but they’re one of the few teams with an extra first round pick (16th and 30th overall) and the draft pool space ($7.885M) to make it work. Aiken’s talent is undeniable, but apparently his injury goes beyond routine Tommy John surgery, and that’s scary.

2015 Draft: Cornelius Randolph

Cornelius Randolph | SS

Randolph, 18, attends Griffin High School not too far outside Atlanta. He is the school’s best baseball prospect since Tim Beckham, the first overall selection of the 2008 draft. Griffin dealt with a minor bout of biceps tendinitis this spring and is committed to Clemson.

Scouting Report
Simply put, the 6-foot-1, 190 lb. Randolph is a pure hitter with great bat speed, power potential, and strike zone awareness from the left side of the plate. An ultra-advanced approach makes him even more dangerous. Randolph rarely chases out of the zone and consistently puts himself in good hitter’s counts. His best tool is his arm strength — his arm wasn’t at its best this spring because of the biceps issue — which works well because he’s not going to stick at shortstop long-term. Cornelius has good hands but lacks the first step quickness and range for shortstop. There’s enough defensive ability there to believe he’ll become an above-average defender at third base in time.

Cornelius ranked as the 19th, 20th, and 29th best prospect in the draft class in the latest rankings by MLB.com, Baseball America, and Keith Law (subs. req’d). Depending on who you ask, the Yankees are looking for a bat with one of their two first round picks (16th and 30th), and Cornelius has one of the best offensive skill sets in the entire draft. He’s a lefty with power and patience, which is the profile you’ll find all throughout franchise history.

Saturday Links: Stottlemyre, Betances, Didi, Mock Drafts

Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)
Stottlemyre during his playing days. (Presswire)

Once again, the Yankees are playing a Saturday night game this week, though at least this one is on the East Coast. Including tonight, their next three and four of their next five Saturday games are night games. Blah. Anyway, here are some links to hold you over until the Yankees and Angels resume their series later tonight.

Mel Stottlemyre Battling Cancer Again

Former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre is again battling cancer, reports John Harper. The 73-year-old Stottlemyre was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, while on Joe Torre’s staff back in 2000, and he was told he only had 3-5 years to live. He’s outshot that projection by a decade, but the cancer returned in late-2011 and he has been undergoing treatment since.

“It’s been tough because so much of my life is controlled by doctors, by the cancer. And the side effects of the treatment have been nasty, there’s no getting around it. But I’m determined that I can beat this thing. There are times when I have my doubts but it’s not going to get me down,” said Stottlemyre to Harper. Among the side effects from the medication are heart and thyroid conditions, and a form of diabetes. He also has an Achilles tendon issue, but can’t undergo surgery due to chemotherapy.

Despite the cancer and the treatment, Stottlemyre said he is going to try to make it to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers’ Day later this month. “I want to be there in the worst way,” he said. His wife Jean said they are going to try to attend as well, though the travel from their home in Washington might be too much. Either way, let’s hope for the best for Stottlemyre, a longtime cancer survivor who is trying to do it again.

Betances Gets Pointers From Rivera

Earlier this season, when Dellin Betances was really struggling with his command, the big right-hander got some pointers from Mariano Rivera, writes Kevin Kernan. “Towards the beginning of the season when I was struggling early on, Mo told me a couple of pointers that really helped,” said Betances. “He told me he felt like my front shoulder was flying open and he offered some tips. I dropped the shoulder a little bit to stay within a straight line and have a good direction towards home, and I think that has helped me be more successful and more consistent.’’

Betances said Rivera also reminded him to “stay locked in and have confidence,” even while struggling. “Hearing that from him makes such a difference. I’ve been able to use that advice to my advantage,” he added. Dellin’s numbers since his early-April struggles are insane — he went into last night’s game with five hits and six walks allowed in his last 24 innings, with 43 strikeouts. Bonkers. Somehow Betances has been even better than last year. If only Rivera’s words had that much of an impact on everyone.

Gregorius Gets Pointers From A-Rod, Beltran

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Meanwhile, the Yankees have turned to two current veteran players to help shortstop Didi Gregorius, who has improved at the plate lately but has struggled overall. In addition to hitting coach Jeff Pentland and assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell, both Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran have been helping Gregorius in recent weeks, reports George King. “Alex and Carlos had a big hand in talking to Didi,’’ said Pentland.

“You have to have the same approach in the batting cage that you do in the game, and that was something that was missing to me. He is the guy who has to go out and do it. Hopefully he has found something to work with,” said Beltran, who added he considers helping young players part of a veteran’s job. Both Beltran and A-Rod encouraged Gregorius to be “more selective in the (strike) zone” as well. This is the second time Rodriguez has lent a hand coaching Didi — he worked with him at shortstop a few weeks go.

Yankees Invite Whitley For Private Workout

According to Dan Zielinksi, the Yankees had New York HS OF Garrett Whitley in for a private workout before Monday’s draft. (Whitley said he worked out for the Braves and Brewers as well.) I’m not sure if the workout took place in Yankee Stadium or in Tampa, but that doesn’t really matter. Here’s my profile on Whitley, a projected first round pick and one of the highest upside players in the draft. Pre-draft workouts are not uncommon but teams don’t invite just anyone either — they’re usually reserved for players clubs have significant interest in, and, more than anything, the workout is so more members of the brain trust can see the player, including the higher ups. There’s no word on who else the Yankees brought in for a pre-draft workout.

Baseball Prospectus’ Mock Draft v2.0

Over at Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d), Chris Crawford posted his second mock draft yesterday, and, like everyone else, he has the Diamondbacks taking Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson with the first overall pick. That’s not set in stone just yet, but it sure looks like Arizona is leaning in that direction. Crawford has the Yankees selecting Whitley and California HS C Chris Betts with their top two picks, 16th and 30th overall, respectively. Here’s my profile on Betts. (The Whitley profile is linked above.) The Yankees have been connected to both players for weeks now. There’s a decent chance Whitley will be off the board by time that 16th pick comes around, but Betts should still be available.

MLB.com’s Mock Draft v4.0

Meanwhile, Jim Callis posted his latest mock draft yesterday as well. He also has the D’Backs taking Swanson with the top pick. As for the Yankees, Callis has them picking UCLA RHP James Kaprielian and Betts with those 16th and 30th overall picks, respectively. Here’s my profile on Kaprielian. (Again, the Betts profile is linked above.) Callis says the Yankees “want a college pitcher,” but we’ve also heard they want a bat, so who really knows. This draft is very deep in right-handed pitchers, both high school and college, so the best available player for that 16th pick could easily be an arm.

Four Players To Attend 2015 Draft

According to MLB, four players will be at the MLB Network studios for the draft broadcast on Monday: Whitley, Florida HS SS Brendan Rodgers, Indiana HS RHP Ashe Russell, and Pennsylvania HS RH Mike Nikorak. Rodgers is a likely top five pick — he was a candidate to go first overall, but apparently the D’Backs want a quick moving college player — while the Yankees have been connected to the other three guys at various points these last few weeks. Here are my profiles for Russell and Nikorak. Look up a few paragraphs for the Whitley profile. It would be pretty neat if the Yankees drafted a kid who was actually in the studio, wouldn’t it?

Ibanez Changes Agents

Free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez recently changed agents, according to Ben Badler. Ibanez left Praver Shapiro Sports Management and is now represented by Relativity Sports. He has been eligible to sign since February, but Badler says Ibanez is likely to wait to sign until after July 2nd so his bonus (and penalties) get pushed to the 2015-16 signing period. The Yankees have shown some interest in Ibanez, a 22-year-old light hitting/good fielding second baseman, but if he waits until July 2nd, they’ll have no shot to sign him. Part of the penalties for last year’s international spending spree is a bonus cap of $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, and $300,000 won’t be enough for Ibanez.

2015 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v5.0

Everett. (The Tennesseean)
Everett. (The Tennesseean)

It’s Friday, so Baseball America’s John Manuel published his weekly mock draft. As always, the mock draft is free to read. You don’t need a subscription. Manuel has the Diamondbacks selecting Georgia HS C Tyler Stephenson with the first overall pick, which differs from most recent mock drafts. Arizona’s been connected to Vanderbilt SS Dansby Swanson frequently the last few weeks.

Anyway, Manuel has the Yankees taking Cal Poly Pomona RHP Cody Ponce with the 16th overall pick and Tennessee HS RHP Donny Everett with the 30th overall pick. (The 30th pick is compensation for David Robertson.) The Yankees have been connected to both players in recent weeks — here are my profiles for Ponce and Everett — so these two mock draft picks are not surprising at all.

Manuel notes the Yankees are in New York HS OF Garrett Whitley (profile), and says they “can be aggressive with a tough sign” with their second pick thanks to their extra draft pool space. New York has a $7.885M bonus pool this year, sixth largest in baseball, so they can roll the dice on a tough to sign player knowing they have the extra money to spend.