Kaprielian spent three years, two of them in the rotation, pitching very well at UCLA, parlaying an outstanding junior year into becoming a first-round pick of the New York Yankees. That was back in 2015 and unfortunately, it’s taken a while for the right-hander to be healthy enough to provide any extended look at what he could do as a professional. He missed all of 2017 and 2018 because of Tommy John surgery, with the Yankees dealing him to the A’s in the Sonny Gray deal at the 2017 Trade Deadline. He had just over 29 innings pitched before he finally stayed healthy on a monitored workload in 2019.
No one has worked harder than Kaprielian to get back on the mound and start moving towards the big leagues. If his 2019 is any indication, he’s not going to be the guy who was pumping mid-90s heat with potentially plus secondary stuff back in college. Instead, he’s learning to pitch at 91-93 mph while occasionally touching 95, commanding the pitch very well. Because of his injury history, Kaprielian was a little tentative in throwing his secondary stuff. He still throws a curve and a slider, with the latter being a bit better, but they do blend into each other at times and neither were better than average last year. He does show a solid changeup with fade at times.
While Kaprielian is a physical pitcher, kind of in the mold of a Kevin Brown type, he’s going to have to be more of a finesse and command type and he did fill up the strike zone consistently in 2019. There’s a chance his stuff snaps back a bit the further removed from injury he gets, but he looks more like a back-end starter than the potential frontline one he projected to be coming out of college.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45
Ranked No. 22 by MLB Pipeline on the Top 200 Draft prospects list in 2015, Kaprielian was the type of advanced college starter teams covet because of his feel for pitching and potential to move quickly through a farm system. The Yankees liked that combination enough to take him in the middle of the first round that June, but he's struggled to stay on the mound since. A forearm injury limited him to just 18 innings during his first full season in 2016, though he showed glimpses of who he can be during an Arizona Fall League stint that fall. He needed Tommy John surgery that ended his 2017 season before it began and setbacks kept him from pitching for the A's after they acquired him as part of the Sonny Gray deal at the 2017 Trade Deadline until instructs this past fall.
While at UCLA, Kaprielian had a fastball that was largely average velocity-wise, but played up because of his command of the pitch. There was excitement when he experienced a jump in his velocity at the outset of his pro career, going from 88-92 to 93-96 mph while touching 99 mph. He was healthy, finally, at instructs last fall, but wasn't popping the radar gun like that. He does have three secondary offerings that all can be above-average, with a tight slider and a changeup with good fade to it, not to mention a solid curve he mixes in effectively. Kaprielian repeats his delivery well and has always been a strike-thrower.
More than anything, the right-hander needs to turn in a healthy season. The A's are sure to proceed cautiously with Kaprielian to give him the best chance of fulfilling his potential as a mid-rotation starter.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50
Kaprielian was viewed as one of the more advanced college hurlers in the 2015 Draft following an impressive career at UCLA that included a national championship (2013). The Yankees took Kaprielian 16th overall, making him the highest-drafted college pitcher in franchise history, and then signed him for $2.65 million. Unfortunately, injuries have subsequently derailed Kaprielian's development, as a strained flexor muscle in his forearm limited him to just three starts in is first full season, while Tommy John surgery the following spring wiped out his entire 2017 campaign. It will now be up to the A's to get Kaprielian back on track after they acquired him, Dustin Fowler and Jorge Mateo for Sonny Gray at the Trade Deadline.
After working at 88-92 mph in college with a fastball that stood out more for its sink and command than it did for velocity, Kaprielian saw his velocity jump to 93-96 mph while touching 99 upon entering pro ball. He possesses a deep secondary arsenal, including a curveball, slider and changeup that all grade as at least above-average pitches when they're on. Kaprielian controls and commands his pitches very well, doing a good job of delivering all of them from the same arm slot.
Considered more of a pitchability right-hander with a ceiling of a No. 3 starter when the Yankees drafted him, Kaprielian has shown frontline stuff when healthy. He's fallen well behind the development curve and will have his workload monitored carefully moving forward, but the overall ingredients are there for Kaprielian to still move quickly once he finally returns to the mound, likely in mid-2018.
A reliever on UCLA's 2013 College World Series championship club and the Bruins' top starter the next two years, Kaprielian was acclaimed as arguably the most polished arm available in the 2015 Draft. The Yankees took him 16th overall, making him the highest-drafted college pitcher in franchise history, and signed him for $2.65 million. His velocity almost immediately spiked upward, though he made just three regular-season starts in 2016 because of a strained flexor muscle in his forearm. He didn't make any in 2017 before having Tommy John surgery in mid-April, and the Yankees packaged him with Dustin Fowler and Jorge Mateo to land A's ace Sonny Gray at the Trade Deadline.
After working at 88-92 mph in college with a fastball that stood out more for its sink and command than it did for velocity, Kaprielian has sat at 93-96 mph and touched 99 in pro ball. There's no consensus as to which of his secondary offerings is the best, because his curveball, slider and changeup all grade as plus pitches when they're on. His slider might have been his worst pitch coming out of college but he ran it up to 90 mph when he returned to the mound in the Arizona Fall League.
Kaprielian controls and commands his pitches very well, doing a good job of delivering all of them from the same arm slot. Considered more of a pitchability right-hander with a ceiling of a No. 3 starter when the Yankees drafted him, he has shown frontline stuff on the rare occasions he has been healthy. He shoudn't require much Minor League seasoning but will have to prove he can stay on the mound.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50
Kaprielian helped UCLA win the 2013 College World Series as a freshman reliever, then served as the Bruins' ace the next two years. One of the most polished pitchers available in the 2015 Draft, he went 16th overall and signed for $2.65 million. The highest-drafted college arm in Yankees history, he was spectacular in three high Class A starts to begin 2016, but then his elbow began ailing and he hasn't pitched since.
Kaprielian has a deep arsenal with three pitches that grade at plus at times. His curveball and changeup were his most consistent offerings in college, and his fastball has averaged 94 mph and maxed out at 99 during his brief time in pro ball after sitting at 88-92 mph during his junior season. His heater was effective even at lower velocities because it has good sink and he locates it so well. He also has an average slider he mixes in as a fourth offering.
One of six first-rounders from the 2014 U.S. collegiate national team's pitching staff, Kaprielian had the best feel for pitching among that group. He controls and commands his repertoire very well and should advance quickly as a pro. He's a good bet to become at least a No. 3 starter and perhaps more if he maintains his increased fastball velocity.
Scouting Grades: Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50
If he hadn't been so intent on attending UCLA, Kaprielian might have gone in the first two rounds of the 2012 Draft, but he instead dropped to the Mariners in the 40th. He played a key relief role on the Bruins' 2013 College World Series championship club and served as their No. 1 starter the next two seasons. The Yankees drafted him 16th overall in June and signed him for $2.65 million.
Kaprielian was one of six first-round picks on the U.S. collegiate national team's pitching staff in 2014, and while he might have the lowest ceiling of that group, he also might be the safest bet among them to become a No. 3 starter in the big leagues. He has tremendous feel for pitching, advanced control and command for his age and a durable frame.
His stuff isn't bad either. Kaprielian has a vanilla 89-92 mph fastball that plays up because he locates it well, and both his curveball and changeup are plus pitches at times. He also can mix in an average slider to give batters a different look.