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

(Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

Your browser does not support iframes.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 14 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.

Cashman: “I do need to find a right-handed arm for the bullpen”

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This should come as no surprise. During an MLB Network radio interview late last week (audio link), Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees are indeed looking for another right-handed reliever. They’re currently carrying two righties (Dellin Betances, Esmil Rogers) and five lefties (Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, Chris Capuano) in the bullpen, which is unusual, if nothing else.

“We lined up a lot of moves this winter to give ourselves a really deep bullpen, some of which have really paid dividends” said the GM. “Others, recently with the designation of David Carpenter, haven’t. So, I need to probably find a right-handed arm. Not probably, I do need to find a right-handed arm for the bullpen here at some point. We have Miller, Betances, Wilson, Shreve, Lindgren, Capuano and Esmil Rogers as the long man.

“Really, outside of Dellin Betances there’s only one right-handed arm out there and he’s the long man, so I’ve got a number of lefties out there in Wilson and Shreve and Lindgren that all can get righties out. At least that’s the benefit of those guys, so it’s not as much of a pressing issued, but I certainly would love to get an arm that Carpenter I think is, but it’s just not here in New York.”

The five-lefty bullpen isn’t necessarily a problem right now because, at the very least, four of those lefties can get righties out. The only real question mark is Lindgren, a rookie with only a handful of weeks in the show who is not yet in the Circle of Trust™. But still, it would be nice to have a more balanced bullpen, especially since the Yankees have series coming up with the righty heavy Nationals, Marlins, Tigers, and Astros.

The Triple-A options are plentiful — Jose Ramirez, Branden Pinder, Danny Burawa, and Bryan Mitchell are all on the 40-man roster — but it’s unlikely any of those guys would jump right into any kind of high (or even medium) leverage role. The Yankees need a righty for the seventh inning, basically. What Adam Warren — or heck, even Shawn Kelley — was last season. That was the role Carpenter was supposed to fill.

It is worth noting right-hander Nick Rumbelow has started working longer stints in Triple-A — he’s thrown at least two innings and 26+ pitches in four of his last five appearances — which is what the Yankees had Lindgren do before he was called up. Rumbelow has a 4.03 ERA (3.00 FIP) with a 27.1 K% this year after pitching to a 2.62 ERA (2.05 FIP) with a 34.0 K% at four levels last year, and he really impressed in Spring Training. That doesn’t mean he is coming up, but Rumbelow has to be considered a bullpen candidate for now.

Pretty much no team is ready to sell at the moment — I’m sure the Phillies would trade Jonathan Papelbon today, but nah — so the trade market is thin. Free agent Rafael Soriano will throw for scouts on Thursday according to his new representatives at Octagon. He recently fired Scott Boras and is now working out for scouts, so you know he’s itching to get back to work. As I said last week, there’s no downside to signing Soriano if he comes cheap and is willing to accept a setup role. If he helps, great. If he stinks, you cut him and wind up right back where you started.

Right now, the lack of another right-handed reliever is not really hurting the Yankees. It’s an inconvenience more than a major flaw. The middle relief has settled down of late mostly because Shreve has assumed more responsibility, so the Yankees aren’t desperate either. Cashman’s right though. They will need another righty reliever at some point this summer. Maybe Rumbelow can be that guy, maybe it’ll be Soriano. Either way, I don’t expect the five-lefty ‘pen to last forever.

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.

Yankeemetrics: Heavenly sweep! (June 5-7)

This is how you celebrate when you almost blow a 7-run lead in the 9th inning (USA TODAY Sports).
This is how you celebrate when you almost blow a 7-run lead in the 9th inning. (USA TODAY Sports)

Is it okay to breathe yet?
Yes … but it wasn’t okay for about 30 minutes on Friday night when it looked like the Yankees might do the impossible and blow an 8-1 lead in the ninth inning. Esmil Rogers and Dellin Betances combined to allow six runs in the final frame before the Yankees were able to escape with a 8-7 win in the series opener.

How rare was this near-loss? The last time the Yankees gave up six-or-more runs in the ninth inning and still won the game was June 20, 1986 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Before Friday, the Yankees had allowed a total of four runs in the ninth inning in their first 54 games combined, the fewest of any AL team.

Rogers let the first five baserunners he faced to reach base and was pulled before retiring a batter. He was charged with five runs, becoming the first Yankee to allow at least five earned runs without recording an out in a game since Steve Howe on April 8, 1993 vs. the Indians. The last Yankee to manage that feat without allowing a home run was Tom Underwood on July 11, 1980 against the Rangers.

Dellin Betances finally has a non-zero number next to his ERA after allowing an earned run for the first time in 2015. His streak of 26 straight appearances to begin a season without giving up an earned run was the third-longest by any major-league pitcher in the last 100 years. Only Mike Myers (33 appearances in 2000) and Brad Ziegler (29 in 2008) had longer streaks.

First things first
The Yankees wasted no time in trying to erase the bad memories from Friday’s ninth inning debacle, scoring six runs in the bottom of the first inning and cruising to a stress-free 8-2 win on Saturday night.

It was the fourth time they plated six-or-more runs in the first inning, something that the Yankees hadn’t done in a season since 1948, according to STATS, Inc.

Adam Warren continued to state his case to remain in the rotation, pitching into the seventh inning for the fifth straight time and allowing just two runs on four hits. He’s the only Yankee pitcher this season with five consecutive quality starts and his ERA during this stretch — 2.70 since May 13 — is easily the best among the starters on the team.

Chris Capuano pitched a perfect ninth inning to secure the win, but he had to work hard for the final out as Carlos Perez fouled off seven pitches before Capuano got him swinging on the 13th pitch. It was the longest game-ending strikeout by any major-league pitcher since Billy Wagner on June 13, 2004 against the Twins’ Matt LeCroy.

Bronx broom-ers?
The Yankees finished off their second sweep in a row with Sunday’s 6-2 win at the Stadium. It was the first time the Yankees swept the Angels in New York since August 1995. How long ago was that? The winning pitcher for the third and final game in that series was Sterling Hitchcock!

CC Sabathia won his first game at home in nearly two years, despite getting ejected at the end of the sixth frame. His six-start losing streak in the Bronx was tied for the longest by any Yankee over the last 100 seasons.

It was the third time Sabathia had been ejected in his career. The others came with the Indians, on July 21, 2006 and July 4, 2003. Before Sabathia, the last Yankee starting pitcher to be ejected for arguing balls and strikes was Randy Johnson on Sept. 16, 2005 against the Blue Jays.

Jose Pirela hit his first career homer in the seventh inning off C.J. Wilson, and is now 14-for-25 (.560) vs. left-handed pitchers as a major-leaguer. That’s the best batting average against lefties by any player since Pirela’s debut last season on September 22 (min. 10 PA).

Fan Confidence Poll: June 8th, 2015

Record Last Week: 6-0 (37 RS, 17 RA)
Season Record: 32-25 (265 RS, 235 RA, 32-25 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Nationals (two games, Tues. and Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Orioles (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features menu in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

DotF: Cave and Judge lead Trenton to another win

According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed RHP Cory Jordan, who did not pitch last season. He was a 35th round pick by the Rays in 2013, pitched that summer in the Short Season NY-Penn League (4.00 ERA and 2.84 FIP in 27 innings), then was released after the season. Not sure what the story is there. Also, Eddy says the Yankees have released OF Wilmer Romero. They signed him for $656,500 as a 16-year-old back in 2010, then he had a growth spurt and lost all his athleticism. Womp womp.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 loss to Rochester, walk-off style)

  • CF Mason Williams: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — 20-for-55 (.364) in his last 14 games
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — third homer of the year (the other two came in the same game)
  • C Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — fifth homer of the year … he hasn’t hit more than six in a season since 2010
  • RF Ben Gamel: 0-2, 2 BB, 2 K
  • LHP Jose DePaula: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 8/5 GB/FB — 56 of 82 pitches were strikes (69%) … excellent outing his second start back from the DL with a shoulder issue
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — ten of 15 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 11 of 18 pitches were strikes (61%)

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