While you say it might be too early for all of this, in actuality, draft season is just about to begin. In a few weeks we'll all be hearing about who the Yankees might be drafting from every outlet imaginable and even Pinstripe Alley will be diving in to prepare you for the 2015 draft. With draft coverage comes mock drafts and today we have our first major mock draft of the season. This year, as you might already know, the Yankees will have the 16th overall pick in the draft–their highest pick since 2005–so this might be the draft to get into if you haven't followed it in the past.
Baseball America has released their first mock draft of the year, believing that the Yankees will go with UCLA right-handed pitcher James Kaprielian for their first round pick. John Manuel believes that since they have so many young amateurs in the system, it might be time to bring in someone with more experience and polish, like they did last year when they drafted nine college pitchers out of their first ten picks in the 2014 draft. Manuel praises Damon Oppenheimer's ability to find pitching in the draft–mainly relievers–even if the system has been hit with injury after injury.
The 21-year-old Kaprielian was previously drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 40th round of the 2012 draft because of a strong commitment to UCLA. He started off as a reliever in his freshman year as a Bruin, maintaining a 1.55 ERA and an impressive 11.73 K/9, but also a troubling 5.31 BB/9 in 40 innings of work. He was moved into the rotation for the 2014 season and he kept a 2.29 ERA, seeing a drop in his K-rate to 9.17 K/9, but also improving his walk-rate to 2.97 BB/9 in 106 innings. This year, Kaprielian has a 2.35 ERA with an improved 10.68 K/9 and a 2.58 BB/9 in 76.2 innings.
The six-foot-three right-hander weighs in at around 190-200 pounds and currently ranks at no. 19 (Baseball America) and no. 28 (MLB.com) among the top 50 draft prospects for 2015. According to MLB, Kaprielian's best pitch is a 60-grade changeup along with a solid 55-grade slider. He also has a 50-fastball and 50-curve as a fourth pitch, while grading out with 55-control. MLB.com believes he has more "pitchability" and is a safer bet to become a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues than his U.S. collegiate national teammates Kyle Funkhouser and Carson Fulmer, both of whom rank higher on prospect lists. He sits in the 89-92 mph range and should be fine there since he has shown the ability to locate his pitches well.
Don't take this to mean the Yankees will definitely be drafting James Kaprielian with their first pick of the draft, but as more mock drafts come out we'll have a better picture of who we should be looking out for. In the end, this is all just speculation and fun, but it's also very informing for the month ahead.