Prospect Profile: Drew Finley

(San Diego Union Tribune)
(San Diego Union Tribune)

Drew Finley | RHP

Background
Finley is from San Diego and his father David is a lifelong baseball man. He was a two-time All-American in college and played two years of pro ball before getting into scouting. He’s worked for the Padres, Marlins, and Red Sox — he was a special assistant to the GM and director of player personnel in Boston — before joining the Dodgers, his current team.

The junior Finley attended baseball powerhouse Rancho Bernando High School, which has produced Hank Blalock, Cole Hamels, and Alex Jackson (6th overall pick in 2014), among others. Finley had a 0.81 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 86 innings last spring, and he also threw a school record 20-strikeout game in April. Keith Law and Baseball America (both subs. req’d) ranked Finley as the 26th and 60th best prospect in the 2015 draft class, respectively.

The Yankees selected Finley with their third round pick, the 92nd overall selection. He signed relatively quickly for a $950,000 bonus that was well above the $626,000 slot recommendation. The extra draft pool space came from second rounder Jeff Degano, who signed a below slot deal.

Pro Debut
After signing, Finley was assigned to the team’s new rookie ball affiliate, the Pulaski Yankees. He had a 3.94 ERA (6.58 FIP) in 12 starts and 32 innings — he was limited to three innings per start — with a good strikeout rate (27.2%) but shockingly high walk (12.6%) and homer (2.53 HR/9) rates. Finley allowed six homers in his first 15.1 innings and only two in his final 16.2 innings, which I guess is the good news. The Yankees didn’t bother to send Finley to Instructional League in the fall after he threw 118 total innings between high school and pro ball in 2015. They sent him home to rest.

Scouting Report
Finley, 19, has good size at 6-foot-3 and 200 lbs., and, as you’d expect from someone who grew up around the game, he’s very advanced for his age. His fastball regularly sits in the 88-92 mph range and he spots it to both sides of the plate. The expectation is Finley will add velocity as he matures and gets under a pro throwing program.

Finley’s bread and butter is a sharp 12-to-6 curveball he can throw for a strike or bury in the dirt for swings and misses. Here’s some video, first from behind the plate and then from a traditional television broadcast outfield camera:

Interestingly, Keith Law (subs. req’d) mentioned Trackman (i.e. PitchFX) data at the 2014 Area Code Games measured Finley’s fastball extension and curveball spin rate among the best in the draft class. Jonathan Mayo has some data showing Finley’s fastball spin rate was among the highest measured as well. Spin rate correlates very well to swing-and-miss rate.

Finley also throws a solid changeup with fade away from left-handed hitters. He can throw all three of his pitches for strikes and has very good feel for his craft. His delivery is relatively effortless as well, pointing towards future above-average command. Finley is not an ace in the making. He’s an advanced high schooler with three pitches who looks like a very safe bet to pitch in the middle of a rotation for a long time. (Safe bet being a relative term, of course.)

2016 Outlook
Over the last few years the Yankees have had their most advanced high school draftees begin their first full pro ball season in Extended Spring Training before bumping them up to Low-A Charleston in May. That’s what they did with Ian Clarkin two years ago, and you can even go as far back as Slade Heathcott and John Ryan Murphy in 2010. They started the year in ExST before being moved up to the RiverDogs in May. I think that might be the plan for Finley in 2016. He’s really advanced for his age and he threw plenty of innings last year, so his workload situation is in good shape. Low-A ball will be a nice test for him this year.

My Take
I’m a really big Finley guy. I thought he was a borderline first round talent heading into the draft and I was thrilled when the Yankees were able to get him in the third round. The walks and homers with Pulaski were a bit disconcerting, but Finley was at the end of a long season and in his first taste of pro ball, so I’ll cut him some slack. I don’t think the Yankees will or should move Finley has aggressively as they did Luis Severino, but he is advanced and he should be a pretty quick mover by high school pitcher standards. I’m excited to watch Finley develop and believe he could be one of the better pitching prospects in the game in a year or two.

Prospect Profile: Jeff Degano

(MCCAthletics.com)
(MCCAthletics.com)

Jeff Degano | LHP

Background
Degano grew up in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb just north of the Canada-U.S. border. He was part of the Canadian team in the 2005 Little League World Series, and wound up taking a loss in pool play. (Canada was eliminated later in the tournament.) Degano attended Fraser Heights High School and was not much of a pro prospect at the time, so he went unselected in the 2010 draft.

Degano headed to Marshalltown Community College in Iowa, pitching to a 3.80 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 71 innings across 16 starts in two seasons. Although he was draft-eligible following both the 2011 and 2012 seasons at Marshalltown, Degano still wasn’t much of a pro prospect, so he went undrafted both times. He instead transferred to Indiana State for his junior year.

In his first season with the Sycamores, Degano made three starts and allowed eleven runs (eight earned) on 15 hits and seven walks in 8.2 innings. He struck out only four. Yeesh. Degano was not healthy though — he blew out his elbow early in the 2013 season and underwent Tommy John surgery. He made just those three starts in 2013 and did not pitch at all in 2014 either.

Degano returned to the mound last spring and was one of the best college starters in the county. He threw 99 innings across 15 starts as a redshirt junior, pitching to a 2.36 ERA with 126 strikeouts (eighth most in Division I) and 28 walks. Degano got better and better as he got further away from elbow surgery and finished the spring very strong.

Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Degano as the third best prospect in Indiana and the 83rd best prospect in the 2015 draft class overall. The Yankees selected Degano in the second round (57th overall) and signed him to a $650,000 bonus fairly quickly. Slot was $1.07M. The draft pool savings were redirected towards later round picks.

Pro Debut
The Yankees eased Degano into pro ball following Tommy John surgery and his big spring workload at Indiana State. He made six tune-up appearances (10.2 innings) with the Rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees before jumping to Short Season Staten Island, where he had a 2.77 ERA (3.13 FIP) in 13 innings. Degano spent most of his time piggybacking with first rounder James Kaprielian — Kaprielian would start, go two or three innings, then Degano would come out of the bullpen and throw two or three innings. After throwing 122.2 total innings in his first year back from elbow reconstruction, the Yankees sent Degano home after the minor league season. He didn’t participate in Instructional League.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 lbs., Degano turned 23 in October and is older than your typical college draftee because the Tommy John surgery delayed things by two years. He only made the three starts in 2013 — his junior and would-be draft year — before missing the entire 2014 season as well.

Anyway, Degano works with a low-90s fastball that sat closer to 92-94 mph later in the spring, as he got further away from elbow surgery. He has two versions of a slurvy breaking ball — the pitch sits anywhere in the 77-82 mph range and Degano can give it big break like a curveball or sweepy break like a slider. Here’s some video from last May, a few weeks before the draft.

Degano’s third pitch is a low-80s changeup that needs a lot of work. He didn’t need it to dominate in college and all the time missed to injury meant he couldn’t work on the pitch. The development of that changeup will determine whether Degano can remain in the rotation or have to settle for a bullpen role long-term.

Once he shook off the rust following surgery, Degano threw more strikes and was better able to pound the zone. He has good control right now but must work on his command, namely painting the corners and keeping his fastball at the knees. Degano is a left-hander with the stuff to miss bats and a big workhorse frame, so it’s no surprise he was drafted as high as he was despite his age and injury history.

2016 Outlook
The Yankees are going to keep Degano in the rotation and hope he improves his changeup so he can remain a starter long-term. I’m not sure whether he’ll open the season with Low-A Charleston or High-A Tampa though. The Yankees might be tempted to start Degano at the higher level given his age, but after losing 2013-14 to injury, the lower level might be more appropriate at this point of his development. We’ll see. Either way, Degano will pitch in full season ball this coming season.

My Take
The injury history sucks, but Degano is a southpaw with good stuff and a big frame, so I’m a fan. His age doesn’t bother me much, to be honest. Yeah, it would be better if he was 20 or 21, but they don’t check IDs on the mound. If you can get outs, you can get outs. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Even if Degano doesn’t improve his changeup, I think he has the tools to be a very successful lefty reliever, and I don’t mean a lefty specialist either. The Yankees took Degano in part to save draft pool space — he had limited leverage after the injury, hence the well-below-slot bonus — but he’s a legitimate prospect with impact potential.

Prospect Profile: Chad Green

(Joel Bissell/MLive.com)
(Joel Bissell/MLive.com)

Chad Green | RHP

Background
Green, 24, grew up in Effingham, Illinois, which is roughly halfway between St. Louis and Indianapolis. He played both baseball and basketball at Effingham High School, where he was a three-time All-Conference and two-time All-Area honoree. Chad’s twin brother Chase also played baseball, and went on to use up all five years of eligibility at Southern Illinois.

Baseball America (subs. req’d) did not rank Green among their top 200 prospects for the 2010 draft, but they did rank him the No. 12 prospect in Illinois. The Blue Jays selected Green out of high school with their 37th round pick but failed to sign him. He instead followed through on his commitment to Louisville and stepped into a low-leverage relief role as a freshman.

Green posted a 1.93 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 16 walks in 42 innings in his first year on campus. He remained in the bullpen as a sophomore, throwing 46.2 innings with a 2.70 ERA and 42/23 K/BB. After the season, Green headed to the Cape Cod League, where he really broke out with a Bourne Braves. He pitched to a 2.79 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 42 innings against the top college players in the country.

The Cardinals moved Green into the rotation his junior year. He threw 104.1 innings across 18 starts, posting a 2.42 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 27 walks. That earned him Second Team All-Big East honors. Green allowed five runs in 12 innings in two postseason starts, both wins. Louisville advanced to the College World Series but was eliminated after losing their first two games, so Green didn’t get a chance to pitch in Omaha.

Green left Louisville after 193 innings with a 2.38 ERA, the best in school history at the time. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the ninth best prospect in Kentucky and the 267th best prospect in the 2013 draft class. The Tigers selected him in the 11th round (336th overall) and signed him for $100,000. The Yankees acquired Green from Detroit in the Justin Wilson trade earlier this month.

Pro Career
The Tigers had Green start his pro career with their High Class-A affiliate — he went for a quick tune-up with their rookie Gulf Coast League affiliate first — where he worked as a reliever following his big workload in school. Green had a 3.54 ERA (3.22 FIP) with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 20.1 pro innings in 2013.

Despite the solid showing in High-A, the Tigers sent Green to their Low Class-A affiliate for the 2014 season. He spent the entire year at the level, throwing 130.1 innings with a 3.11 ERA (3.08 FIP). Green struck out 23.9% of batters faced and walked 5.4%. Baseball America ranked him as the team’s 29th best prospect following the season in their 2015 Prospect Handbook.

The Tigers jumped Green straight to Double-A this past season — High-A to Low-A to Double-A is an atypical development path, I’d say — where he had a 3.93 ERA (3.22 FIP) in 148.2 innings. He had solid strikeout (20.9%) and walk (6.6%) rates while being about six months younger than the average Eastern League player.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-3 and 210 lbs., Green is a big and physical right-hander with a low-90s sinker that is his key to success. He throws a lot of strikes with the pitch and consistently locates it at the knees. The Tigers introduced Green to a splitter last season and it has since emerged as his top secondary offering. He’s still working to gain consistency with the pitch.

Green also throws a sharp low-80s slider that he struggles to locate on the outer edge to righties. He tends to miss way off the plate or hang it over the middle. The split-finger, which replaced a changeup, is Green’s put-away pitch against both righties and lefties at the moment. There’s not much video of him available, so here’s a clip from April 2014, when he was in Low Class-A with the Tigers.

Green’s delivery is pretty simple and in-line with the plate, allowing him to throw strikes with his fastball with ease. He’s been praised for his ability to outsmart hitters and keep them off balance. Also of note: Green’s a very good athlete and a strong fielder, which is not insignificant for a ground ball pitcher.

2016 Outlook
After pitching well and spending the entire season in Double-A in 2015, Green is ticketed for the Triple-A Scranton rotation next season. I’m guessing he’ll get an invite to big league Spring Training so the coaching staff and front office can see him up close. Assuming he pitches well with the RailRiders, Green figures to make his MLB debut at some point next year, even if he’s only an up-and-down arm at first. He’ll be Rule 5 Draft eligible next offseason, so a 40-man roster spot hangs in the balance.

My Take
Pitching prospects like Green don’t excite me much but the Yankees seem to have success with guys like this, guys who can throw strikes and pitch off their fastball. David Phelps and Adam Warren are the most notable recent examples. The Yankees worked with both to develop secondary stuff. Green’s new-ish splitter is promising and I’m guessing tightening up the slider will be a point of emphasis going forward. There’s nothing sexy about back-end starters, but the Yankees need cheap rotation help, and Green just might be able to help in that capacity.

Prospect Profile: Luis Cessa

(Toledo Blade)
(Toledo Blade)

Luis Cessa | RHP

Background
The Mets originally signed Cessa as a 16-year-old shortstop out of Mexico in June 2008. I can’t find any information about his signing bonus, though Cessa was not a significant amateur prospect, so chances are the bonus was relatively small.

Pro Career
Cessa spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons in the Dominican Summer League and he didn’t hit, putting up a .178/.319/.229 batting line in 57 total games. The Mets put an end to his shortstop days and decided to try to take advantage of his arm on the mound. Cessa converted to pitching for the 2011 season.

In his first year as a moundsman, Cessa had a 3.19 ERA (2.64 FIP) in 53.2 rookie ball innings. He moved up to the Short Season NY-Penn League in 2012 and managed a 2.53 ERA (3.51 FIP) in 13 starts and 72.1 innings. The Mets bumped Cessa up to their Low Class-A affiliate in 2013 and he responded with a 3.20 ERA (3.14 FIP) in 21 starts and 130 innings. The pitching thing was working out.

The 2014 season saw Cessa pitch to a 4.26 ERA (3.76 FIP) in 118.1 innings, almost all at High-A. (He made one spot start in Double-A.) The Mets opted not to add him to their 40-man roster after the season and the gamble paid off — Cessa went unpicked in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. He was assigned to the club’s Double-A affiliate to start 2015.

Cessa broke out this past season, pitching to a 2.56 ERA (2.69 FIP) in 13 starts and 77.1 Double-A innings. The Mets moved him up Triple-A for five starts (8.51 ERA and 3.85 FIP), then traded him to the Tigers as the second piece in the Yoenis Cespedes deal. Cessa made seven more Triple-A starts with the Tigers (5.97 ERA and 3.40 FIP) after the trade.

All told, Cessa had a 4.52 ERA (3.08 FIP) in 25 starts and 139.1 innings this season between the Mets and Tigers, Double-A and Triple-A. His strikeout (19.6%) and walk (5.9%) rates were right in line with his career averages (19.6 K% and 5.1 BB%). The Yankees acquired Cessa from the Tigers in the Justin Wilson trade last week.

Scouting Report
Most position player-to-pitcher conversion guys are hard throwers with no real idea where the ball is going. That doesn’t really describe Cessa. The 23-year-old right-hander has a low-90s fastball and will touch 95 mph regularly, and he throws both a changeup and a slider. The change is the more reliable of the two secondary pitches — the Mets had him emphasize the changeup over the years — but the slider flashes above-average potential.

Cessa has a good pitcher’s body at 6-foot-3 and 190 lbs., and he has the kind of athleticism you’d expect from a former shortstop. His delivery is really smooth and he does a very good job repeating it. Most converted guys short arm the ball or have herky jerky motions. Not Cessa.

The delivery and athleticism give Cessa very good control and solid command. He throws strikes and can spot his fastball well, though the changeup and slider command are still improving. Cessa took to pitching quickly, so I guess it’s no surprise he has a reputation for being coachable and having a strong work ethic.

2016 Outlook
The Tigers did not roll the dice like the Mets last year. Detroit added Cessa to the 40-man roster last month to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, so he is on New York’s 40-man right now. That means he’ll be in big league camp next spring and I’m sure we’ll see him often, especially if bullpen jobs are up for grabs. More than likely, Cessa will head to Triple-A Scranton and be an up-and-down arm in 2016. Depending what happens with Bryan Mitchell, Cessa could be as high as seventh on the rotation depth chart come Opening Day.

My Take
I didn’t know a whole lot about Cessa before the trade so I haven’t had much time to form an opinion. He’s certainly not a high ceiling prospect. He’s more of a back-end starter who succeeds by limiting walks and keeping the ball on the ground (51.2% ground ball rate in 2015). Cessa does give the Yankees something they lack though: Triple-A rotation depth. The system has been short on arms for a while now and Cessa helps address the upper level depth problem.

Prospect Profile: Kyle Holder

(Staten Island Advance)
(Staten Island Advance)

Kyle Holder | SS

Background
Holder is a San Diego native who played both baseball and basketball at University City High School. Baseball America did not rank him among the top 500 prospects for the 2012 draft. Holder went undrafted out of high school and headed to Grossmont College, a two-year school, and originally intended to play both sports before deciding to focus full-time on baseball.

During his lone season at Grossmont, Holder hit .405/.477/.446 with eleven walks and only four strikeouts in 38 games. Baseball America (subs. req’d) didn’t rank him among the top 500 prospects for the 2013 draft — Holder was draft-eligible because he went to a junior college, though he went undrafted again — but his big spring did catch the eye of several major Division I programs.

Holder was recruited by UNLV, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Riverside, among other schools, but chose to stay close to home and attend the University of San Diego. He took over as the Toreros starting shortstop and hit .295/.358/.403 with three home runs, 15 walks, and 16 strikeouts in 52 games in 2014. After the season Holder played with the Cotuit Kettleers in the prestigious Cape Cod League and hit .274/.398/.301 in 20 games.

As a junior this past spring, Holder broke out offensively, hitting .348/.418/.482 with four home runs and as many walks as strikeouts (19 each) in 55 games. Baseball America ranked him as the 38th best prospect in the 2015 draft and the Yankees grabbed him with their supplemental first round pick, No. 30 overall. That was the compensation pick for losing David Robertson to free agency. Holder signed quickly for $1.8M, slightly below the $1.91M slot value.

Pro Debut
The Yankees assigned Holder to Short Season Staten Island this summer and he hit .213/.273/.253 (57 wRC+) in 56 games and 250 plate appearances while batting a nagging thumb injury that caused him to miss 20 games over the course of the season. The Yankees then had Holder take part in Instructional League in September and October.

Scouting Report
Holder is a defense-first prospect. He’s ultra-athletic at 6-foot-1 and 185 lbs., and many reports dubbed him the best defensive player at any position in the draft and best defensive college shortstop in several years. Holder has good instincts, good range, a quick first step, soft hands, and a strong arm capable of making plays deep in the hole. He’s a no-doubt shortstop long-term who is an above-average defender right now with the potential to be more in the future.

At the plate, Holder is very much a work in progress. It’s unlikely he’ll ever be an above-average hitter because he lacks power — even the most optimistic folks project him to be a single-digit homer guy — despite having a bit of an uppercut swing. The Yankees have already gone to work with Holder, getting him to stand a bit more upright and do a better job of keeping his weight back. Here’s some video:

If you’re interested, here’s video of Holder with San Diego in May. The Yankees have shortened his base a bit and straightened him up, though there is obviously still work to be done.

Offensively, Holder’s best attribute is his bat-to-ball skills from the left side of the plate. He makes contact fairly easily and knows the strike zone, so it’s a matter of improving the quality of his contact, not revamping his approach. Holder’s a good runner but doesn’t have big time speed. He’s going to be a bottom of the order hitter whose primary value comes in the field. And, for what it’s worth, Holder has drawn praise for his work ethic and leadership skills.

2016 Outlook
Although he’s a college player who spent the last two seasons at a major program, Holder has only been playing baseball full-time for three years, so he’s not really in position to shoot up the minor league ladder. The Yankees have a ton of shortstop prospects in the low minors, most notably Jorge Mateo, who will open 2016 with High-A Tampa. That likely means Holder will open next season with Low-A Charleston. The Yankees have a lot of lower level shortstop prospects and sorting out playing time will be a challenge the next year or two.

My Take
I thought the Holder pick was fine in the sense that he was a supplemental first round pick talent, but didn’t love it because he’s a pretty low upside player. His value is tied to his defense — and to be fair, by all accounts he’s a great defender at an up-the-middle position — and if some swing changes don’t take, his bat may top out in Single-A.

At the same time, Holder has a carrying tool in his defense, and that’s a big deal at a premium position. Brett Gardner was overlooked in the minors because appeared to lack offensive upside even though his center field glove gave him a chance to stick as a regular. (Then Gardner learned how to hit, so yeah.) Holder’s detractors have already dug in and he will be heavily scrutinized. I like to think I have an open mind, though there’s no doubt the development of Holder’s bat will be under the microscope going forward.

Prospect Profile: James Kaprielian

(Staten Island Advance)
(Staten Island Advance)

James Kaprielian | RHP

Background
Kaprielian is a Southern California kid who was born in Orange County and grew up in Tustin. He played football as well as three years of varsity baseball at Beckman High School, going 33-3 with a 0.96 ERA overall. Kaprielian threw eleven shutouts and two no-hitters in his career, and he didn’t walk a batter his junior year. “He was a special player to get to coach,” said coach Zach Reeder to Tim Burt.

Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Kaprielian as the 73rd best prospect in the 2012 draft, though bonus demands and a strong commitment to UCLA caused him to fall to the 40th round, when the Mariners grabbed him. Kaprielian did not sign out of high school and instead went to college. By the way, his name is pronounced “ka-pril-ian.”

As a freshman, Kaprielian had a 1.55 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 24 walks in 40.2 innings across 34 relief appearances. He pitched for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League after the season, where he posted a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings. He struck out 28 and participated in the league All-Star Game.

The Bruins moved Kaprielian into the rotation his sophomore year and he immediately took over as their Friday night starter. He blossomed into one of the best starters in the nation, pitching to a 2.29 ERA with a conference leading 108 strikeouts and 34 walks in 15 starts and 106 innings. That performance earned him All-Pac-12 honors.

Kaprielian pitched for the US Collegiate National Team during the summer and struck out a dozen in six shutout innings against Chinese Taipei. He pitched soon after losing his mother to breast cancer and his effort was recognized as the USA Baseball International Performance of the Year.

Kaprielian had a 2.02 ERA with 114 strikeouts and 33 walks in 106.2 innings spread across 16 starts and one relief appearance as a junior this spring, earning him Second Team All-American honors. On May 15th, he threw nine no-hit innings against Arizona in the first no-hitter in UCLA history. (They won in ten innings.)

Prior to the 2015 draft, Baseball America and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Kaprielian as the 19th and 27th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. The Yankees, who were linked to Kaprielian all spring, grabbed him with their first round pick, the 16th overall selection. He signed a few days before the deadline for a $2.65M bonus, slightly more than the $2.43M slot value.

Pro Debut
UCLA’s season ended June 1st and Kaprielian didn’t sign until July 15th, so the Yankees eased him into things to start his pro debut. He made two quick tune-up appearances with the Rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees before moving up to Short Season Staten Island, where he made three more starts. Kaprielian allowed six runs (five earned) on ten hits and four walks in 11.1 innings in his pro debut. He fanned 14.

The Yankees turned Kaprielian loose during the NY-Penn League postseason. He made two starts for the Staten Island Yanks in the playoffs and they were both great: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K in the first one, then 6.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 K in the second one. The Baby Bombers were swept in the Championship series but Kaprielian, who started Game One in both postseason series, was pretty great. Between college and pro ball, Kaprielian threw 130.1 total innings in 2015. He then participated in Instructional League after the season.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 200 lbs., Kaprielian is a big and sturdy guy with an ideal pitcher’s frame. He has the basic four-pitch mix — fastball, curveball, slider, changeup — and he uses all four pitches regularly. This isn’t a guy with a show-me changeup or something like that. Kaprielian has good feel for each of his pitches and all four are weapons. His deep arsenal is the reason he was fifth pitcher taken in this summer’s draft.

Kaprielian’s fastball sat 90-93 mph for most of his college career before jumping to 92-95 mph with a few 96s late this spring. He sustained his newfound velocity in his pro debut as well. Depending on the day, either the curveball or slider is Kaprielian’s best breaking ball, though both are above-average pitches. The slider is a mid-80s offering with short and sharp break, so much so that it almost looks like a cutter. The curve mostly sits in the 78-82 mph range and Kaprielian can throw it for strikes or bury it in the dirt for swings and misses.

The changeup is Kaprielian’s fourth pitch and was a point of emphasis after turning pro. The Yankees had him throw it a bunch with Staten Island and it’s really more of a circle change with tumbling action in the low-80s. He tends to spike it in the dirt when he misses. Kaprielian’s command rates as above-average and he pitches aggressively, going after hitters rather than nibbling and trying to set them up.

Kaprielian’s delivery is not textbook — he lifts his leg up then brings it down before striding forward, and his shoulders dip along with his lower half — but it’s not violent or anything that needs to be changed. It’s almost like a halfway drop-and-drive delivery. The Yankees really value good makeup and it’s no coincidence Kaprielian drew raves for his maturity and work ethic at UCLA.

2016 Outlook
After three years in the Pac-12, including the last two as the best starting pitcher in the conference, Kaprielian is on the very fast track. He’s ready for High-A Tampa and his time there may be brief. As a four-pitch guy with command and maturity, Kaprielian could jump on the Ian Kennedy track and make his MLB debut late in 2016. Kennedy made ten starts with High-A Tampa, nine with Double-A Trenton, six with Triple-A Scranton, then three with the Yankees in 2007, his first full pro season. Even if Kaprielian doesn’t make his MLB debut in 2016, he should be a big league option no later than the first half of 2017. This isn’t a guy you draft in the middle of the first round then hold back in the minors. Kaprielian’s potential to move very quickly was part of his appeal at the time of the draft.

My Take
I really like Kaprielian and think he got a raw deal from may fans at the time of the draft, being labeled low upside and things like that. If the velocity spike is legit — he held it from spring all through the summer in pro ball — Kaprielian has significant ceiling and could pitch near the front of a big league rotation. Even if the velocity increase doesn’t last and he reverts back to 90-93 mph, he’s still a no doubt starter with the frame to be a workhorse. The Yankees have started to lean on their farm system a little more and I’m excited to see Kaprielian cut through the minors quickly and make his debut as soon as next season.

Prospect Profile: Tyler Wade

(MiLB.com)
(MiLB.com)

Tyler Wade | SS

Background
Wade is a Southern California kid from Murrieta, roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. He played baseball at Murrieta Valley High School and was a pop-up guy, meaning he didn’t jump onto the radar as a draft prospect until the spring of his draft year. (Wade hit .524 as a senior after hitting .328 as a sophomore and junior.)

Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Wade as the 34th best prospect in California and the 169th best prospect overall for the 2013 draft. The Yankees selected him in the fourth round with the 134th overall pick. Wade signed about a week later for $371,300, exactly slot money for his draft spot.

Pro Career
Wade was assigned to one of the team’s two rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliates after signing and he had an excellent pro debut, hitting .309/.429/.370 (146 wRC+) with a 16.2% walk rate, a 21.2% strikeout rate, and 11 steals in 12 attempts in 46 games. He played so well the Yankees bumped him up to Short Season Staten Island for a few games at the end of the GCL season. Wade went 1-for-13 (.077) in four games with Staten Island.

The Yankees aggressively assigned Wade to Low-A Charleston to start the 2014 season, where he was slated to split time at shortstop, second base, and DH with Gosuke Katoh and Abi Avelino. Avelino suffered a quad injury a month into the season and that pushed Wade into regular shortstop duty. He handled the workload well, hitting .272/.350/.349 (100 wRC+) with a 9.9% walk rate, a 20.5% strikeout rate, and 22 steals in 35 attempts during his age 19 season.

Scouting Report
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 lbs., Wade is a true shortstop with good athleticism, quick feet, and sure hands. His weakest defensive tool is his arm, which is juuust strong enough for short. Wade has a quick and compact left-handed swing that sprays line drives all over the field, and he knows the strike zone well. Here’s some video (there’s more at MiLB.com):

Wade is a pure slash hitter with zero power. He hit one homer total in his last three years of high school and has one homer in 179 games as a pro. Power’s not his game. Even if he packs on some muscle as he matures, Wade is expected to be a single digit home run guy who hits near the bottom of the order with okay batting averages and respectable on-base percentages. His speed is good, but, as going 22-for-35 (63%) in stolen base attempts last year suggests, he needs to improve his base-running instincts and pick his spots better. Wade’s a classic scrappy middle infield type. Prepare for the inevitable David Eckstein comparisons.

2015 Outlook
After a strong full season debut with the River Dogs, Wade will move up to High-A Tampa for the 2015 season and again serve as the everyday shortstop. He just turned 20 in November and there’s no reason to think he’ll get a midseason promotion to Double-A Trenton, even if he breaks out and has a huge year. Wade’s a one level at a time guy and there’s nothing wrong with that.

My Take
I like Wade, he’s been a pleasant surprise despite being a relatively high draft pick. Most pop-up guys never amount to anything — they usually just have the best few weeks of their lives at exactly the right time — but Wade has the athleticism for shortstop and isn’t a zero at the plate. There’s always a chance upper level pitchers will knock the bat right out of his hands, but I think there’s a good chance he’ll get stronger as he fills out and turn into a doubles machine. The Yankees have a surprising amount of quality shortstop prospects in the low minors and Wade is the highest on the minor league ladder.