The Yankees had their highest first overall pick in the draft since 1993, and they decided to use that pick on James Kaprielian, a right-handed starting pitcher out of UCLA. Kaprielian was born on March 2, 1994, and attended Arnold O. Beckman High School in Irvine, California. After absolutely dominating high school competition, the Seattle Mariners selected him in the 40th round of 2012 draft. He instead opted to attend UCLA, and he had one of the greatest pitching careers ever recorded by a Bruin. He finished with the fifth lowest ERA in program history, the sixth most strikeouts in program history, and he was an All-Pac-12 first team honoree after his final season.
Kaprielian is exactly the type of pitcher the Yankees would be all over: he's incredibly large at six feet and four inches tall and 200 pounds, and he's a polished athlete with excellent makeup. He has three primary pitches: a fastball that sits 89-92 mph, a changeup in the mid-80s, and a curveball thrown in both 11-5 and 12-6 varieties at around 75-79 mph. He generally works with the fastball and curveball for pounding early strikes and getting the third strike, respectively, so the changeup is hardly a finished product. Some have said that it is about average and can often appear as a splitter, which is an encouraging sign. In terms of mechanics, they have gotten mixed reviews. Here's some quick analysis from pitching mechanics expert, Doug Thorburn:
No. 16 Kaprielian, big rock-roll guy w vert load, glove-side is soft w heavy spine tlt, stability is C- or worse, Power is C at best— Doug Thorburn (@doug_thorburn) June 9, 2015
Kaprielian has deceiving follow-through and high arm slot to earn praise from some, the I-W and raised elbows to raise eyebrows from others— Doug Thorburn (@doug_thorburn) June 9, 2015
That certainly is not disastrous, but it is definitely a concern. There have been sabermetricians and mechanics experts who have recently said the inverted-W issues are a bit overblown, but it's not necessarily the best, either. The key is remaining balanced, stable, and using your body to generate enough power through your follow-through, and it's clear that Kaprielian isn't exactly there yet. If the organization feels like these are fixable issues--especially given his positive marks on coachability--then there is optimism that these problems can be ironed out in short order.
In terms of signability, he won't be an issue at all. He is a college signing and has little leverage, and he is looking to begin his career right now. His adviser is currently Scott Boras, so he should get the 16th overall slot value, around $2.5 million. He will likely hold out as long as possible to get the maximum payout, and Bryan Hoch has reported that special assistant to the GM Jim Hendry will start negotiations.
This was a safe pick for the Yankees, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be excited. While there were arguably better players on the board (Brady Aiken, for example), the Yankees are trying to make sure this pick pays off relatively quickly. Kaprielian still has to work on his mechanics and command, while obviously learning to pitch to professional hitters, but he is much closer to a finished product than the likes of Ashe Russell and Mike Nikorak, for example. He may not have the ceiling of an ace starting pitcher, but a mid-rotation starter that could contribute as soon as 2017 or 2018 is something that can get any Yankees fan excited.