If there’s a sure thing when it comes to college arms in this year’s draft, it’s James Kaprielian, a junior right-hander out of UCLA who was drafted No. 16 overall by the New York Yankees on Monday.
Compared to the buzz that other Bruins arms have generated coming out of Westwood in recent years, Kaprielian may not be among the Trevor Bauer’s or Gerrit Cole’s, but he’s got the stuff to be a dependable, middle-of-the-rotation big league starter.
Kaprielian has a good frame at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and has good leg drive behind his 88-94 fastball, but that drive is a consequence of a delivery that needs some work.
His delivery is, to be frank, a little on the funky side. There’s a lot of wasted movement, and it causes repeatability issues and mechanical breakdowns, and the deeper he gets into at-bats, the more those tend to show up. If he can simplify the motion, and find a way to funnel all the energy from his big frame into a more efficient delivery, he could add velocity to his fastball, making his already-effective secondary stuff that much more effective.
Kaprielian’s high-3/4 arm slot is well-suited to his curve, which is probably his best swing-and-miss pitch, but he can also throw it for strikes.
He’s developed his change up much more over the course of the last year and a half, throwing it in the low-80s with good arm speed. He’ll show a slider, but that’s a developmental pitch for him at this point.
His fastball command is what should get him to the Major Leagues in short order, but his intangibles and makeup may be just as impressive.
By the Numbers
Kaprielian had a no-hitter against Arizona through nine innings in the middle of May, but came out with the score tied 0-0. Another expected high draft pick -- David Berg -- came on to complete a 10-inning no-no at Jackie Robinson Stadium. In that game, Kaprielian struck out 11 and walked four, retiring 14 straight from the third through seventh innings.
Over a span of three starts this season, he threw 23.2 scoreless innings. He went 10-4 on the season with a 2.03 ERA, tossing 106.2 innings and striking out 114 to 33 walks.
Over his career, he’s averaged 3.27 walks per nine innings (92 in 253.1 IP), and struck out 9.77 per nine innings.
After a freshman campaign in which he appeared 34 times out of the bullpen on the Bruins' national title team, with two saves in 40.2 innings of work, he became UCLA's top starter for 2014 and 2015, compiling a 17-10 record.
As a freshman, he threw in the College World Series, was named a Freshman All-American from Louisville Slugger and Collegiate Baseball, appearing in six total postseason games, giving up one run in 5.2 innings of work and striking out seven. He did not allow a single hit in his six postseason appearances.