Name: James Kaprielian
DOB: March 2, 1994
Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball. Kaprielian's combination of a excellent command, solid movement, and high-end sitting velocity make it a true plus offering. It sat mostly in the 91-94 mph range in college but it quickly developed into a 94-96 mph fastball at the professional level as he received more professional coaching, tweaked his mechanics, and got his legs a little more involved. And even though the velocity bumped up from above average to plus, the command was still [and is still] very much there. Throw in a fastball that can have some impressive movement at times and it's the kind of pitch that he can have success with alone multiple times through a lineup. What hasn't been proven yet, however, is how that velocity will be sustained [or even if it can be sustained] deep into his starts and even deeper into seasons simply because he hasn't done it yet due to the injuries. He's built like a horse though and he's very, very strong, so every indication is there that he should be able to sustain his plus power but it still has to be proven in between the lines over the course of a full season.
Other Pitches. What makes Kaprielian so devastating to face is the fact that he can throw any of his secondary pitches, all of which grade out as above average or better, for strikes in any count. The best of the bunch is his plus big league slider in the 85-87 mph range. It serves as his primary strikeout pitch [besides his fastball] among his secondary offerings and it not only has great late sweeping action but he can command it extremely well. His fourth pitch entering professional baseball -- his changeup -- is probably his third pitch right now. Ironically, despite not having much in-game mound experience, the changeup is rapidly coming along, so much so that it shows long-term plus potential. It gets excellent fade and depth, and he'll even throw it to right-handed batters in any situation. It acts more like a splitter with the way it bottoms out and it is yet another strikeout weapon for him. He rounds out his extensive repertoire with a very very good curveball. It's the pitch he has thrown the least in his limited professional experience because of the ailing elbow and a result, despite the great 12 to 6 diving action it has, it's the pitch he commands the least right now. However, it should be noted that is nit-picky as he still commands his curveball better than most. It's an above average pitch right now with long-term plus potential, he just needs to throw it more.
Pitching. Kaprielian's plus stuff is undeniable but that's not what stands out the most. It's his aura on the mound, the way he carries himself both on and off the field, that makes him and his pitching so special. There might not be a more confident pitcher on the mound anywhere and as a result he's in full attack mode from the very start of the game. He goes right after batters with an array of four above average or better big league pitches, throwing all of four in any count with a true 'no fear' approach, and he has both the command and movement to miss the sweet spots or miss bats entirely. He's very intelligent too and pitches in a cerebral, chess-like fashion, throwing purpose pitches earlier in counts to set up batters later in at-bats. Not one to rest on his laurels either, his competitive fire is second to none. He wants to be the best, he's willing to work to be the best, and he expects to be the best so he combines his special physical attributes with a through-the-roof makeup. A good athlete too, he fields his position well and has no issues repeating his delivery.
Projection. Kaprielian has no weaknesses in his game, period. Boasting four above average to plus pitches [all of which have long-term plus potential], movement, command, and size, he already safely projects as one of the real solid middle of the rotation big league starters at minimum should he stay healthy. While that is his floor, his ceiling is so much higher. With excellent mental makeup, a world class work ethic, and the kind of insatiable desire to be the best he has true 'ace' type ceiling that isn't just pie in the sky kind of dreaming either, it's very, very realist. In fact, it's his combination of top-shelf stuff, command, movement, and off-the-charts intangibles that help safely compare him to Mets' ace Matt Harvey. Not so ironically, however, it is Kaprielian's sketchy health history to date and inconsistencies staying on the field that make that Harvey comparison a slam dunk. Like Harvey he projects to not be long for the minor leagues and show real dominance on the mound at any level [including the big leagues] when he is pitching in games, and like Harvey about the only thing that could hold him back from becoming one of the best pitchers in the games is injuries,
ETA. 2018. We made the point a year ago that Kaprielian was arguably already big league ready then and even with just 18 high-A innings last year to his credit that still rings true today -- he could absolutely handle the big league level right now -- he just needs to stay healthy, but that's where the trouble comes in. His lack of innings last year will severely limit his innings cap this year when/if he's healthy enough to pitch so even if he were theoretically able to pitch at the big league level the Yankees would want to protect his health by avoiding it. If his elbow is healthy enough to pitch this season and there are no further setbacks this year then he most likely could become a viable big league option next year, but getting [and staying] healthy is first and foremost.