Name: James Kaprielian
DOB: March 2, 1994
Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball. Kaprielian entered the professional ranks armed with an above average fastball that sat mostly in the 91-94 mph range throughout college and in the beginning stages of his debut season last year but also one that showed a lot of late-life and one that he commanded quite well. It was clearly an above average pitch from both a command and velocity standpoint. However, the more professional coaching he received and the cleaner his delivery got the higher his velocity began to creep up. He was sitting mostly in the 93-96 mph range throughout Instructs and even averaged 95 mph later in Instructional League, showing that the above average heater surely had plus potential and the good command didn't suffer either. He hasn't proven he can sustain that kind of plus power over the course of an entire season just yet but the flashes are definitely there that it can be quite special.
Other Pitches. Boasting three big league secondary pitches already, Kaprielian's best offering is his plus big league slider in the mid-80s. It has a lot of late lateral movement and it's the secondary pitch that he can command consistently the best right now, and it serves as his main strikeout pitch. He does have a quality curveball too, one that sits in the low-80s with good late bite, but it's not yet a pitch he can consistently command in the zone as well as he would like. He'll get his fair share of swings and misses with it and it clearly is an above average big league pitch movement-wise; a little more consistent command and it too could become a plus pitch. He rounds out his repertoire with a quality changeup that acts more like a splitter with the way it bottoms out. It's a bit harder than an average change but just like the curveball it has some intriguing long-term plus potential. It is yet another strikeout pitch but one that he doesn't go to quite as often just yet.
Pitching. While Kaprielian has quality stuff across the board it's his aura on the mound that really stands out. He pitches with a ton of confidence, he has a free and easy delivery, and he employs a full-attack style on the mound. He goes right after batters and has a palpable 'no fear' mentality; he's not afraid to make mistakes and he shakes them off very quickly when he does. Very cerebral too, he knows how to set up batters in chess-like fashion and he is adept at reading hitters' swings. It's his high level of intelligence, huge mental makeup, and fiery competitive nature that collectively allow his pitch-ability to be maximized and allows him to receive coaching well. A good athlete too, he fields his position well and has no issues repeating his delivery.
Projection. Armed with average to above average command of four big league pitches, all of which grade out as above average offerings with room to grow, Kaprielian already safely projects as a solid middle of the rotation big league starting pitcher, especially given his strong physique. However, with no glaring weaknesses in his game right now and as seemingly [nearly] big league ready as his game currently stands, the fact is there's still a lot of untapped upside to his game too. Both the curveball and changeup have room to improve [in fact, either could wind up being his best pitch down the road], and as he showed during Instructional League this past offseason there's even some hidden power yet to be tapped as well. If he can sustain the power he showed during Instructs over the course of an entire season and further improve his secondary pitches he has the potential to slide into the upper-half of a big league rotation and beyond. There's a James Shields-like upside to Kaprielian's game and physically the two compare very well already.
ETA. 2017. Kaprielian's game isn't all that far off from being big league ready right now and a strong argument could be made that it's not beyond the realm of possibility that he could follow an Ian Kennedy or Joba Chamberlain-like minor league path and reach the big leagues in his first full professional season. However, the smarter bet has the Yankees pumping the brakes on that kind of ascension and allowing Kaprielian a bit more time to further develop his game. He's ready to skip a minor league level and should open up in high-A Tampa to begin the 2016 season, and getting some Double-A action later in the season seems likely. Should it play out that way he could be a viable big league option by some time the following year.