Despite his limited professional experience, James Kaprielian could push for a spot on the Oakland Athletics pitching staff this season.
James Kaprielian has had a bit of a star crossed professional career. Selected by the Yankees as the 16th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics as part of the package for Sonny Gray. The hope was that he could be another piece to a potentially dominating young rotation in Oakland.
However, Kaprielian has not been able to stay healthy. He appeared in just five games in 2015 as the Yankees hoped to protect his arm, but injuries still found him. Kaprielian made just three starts in 2016 as he was on the shelf due to a strained flexor tendon, but was healthy enough to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. His solid showing made him a consensus top 100 prospect heading into 2017, with the hope that he would finally blossom.
Instead, 2017 was a lost season. His elbow discomfort started again, leading to Tommy Joh surgery. He lost the entire 2018 campaign as well, as setbacks kept him from the mound. Finally, after missing more time with a lat strain, he was able to restart his professional career.
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When Kaprielian finally pitched again, he did not appear to miss a beat. He climbed three levels, making his debut in both AA and AAA last season. Over his 68 innings, he posted a 3.18 ERA and a 1.103 WHiP, striking out 75 batters with just 16 walks. He was certainly worth the wait for the Athletics.
They may not have to wait much longer to see him in the majors. Although he will likely start the 2020 campaign in AAA, a dominant showing could lead to an opportunity in the majors. Even if he does not crack the rotation just yet, Kaprielian could see time in the bullpen, following the same model as A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo last year.
As with that duo, the bullpen will not be his final destination. While he has not gotten his velocity back just yet, Kaprielian still has an impressive four pitch mix. His slider, curve, and change are all out pitches, and are all considered above average major league offerings. Add in his excellent command and he has all the makings of a future star.
That is, if he can stay healthy. Should that happen, James Kaprielian could make his presence felt on the Oakland Athletics as soon as this coming year.