2015 first round pick James Kaprielian hit the ground running this year, as he was sent to High-A Tampa to begin the season. In his first three starts, Kaprielian dominated the Florida State League with a 1.50 ERA, a 0.61 WHIP, and 22 strikeouts in 18 innings. Less than a month into the season, it looked like Kaprielian would not be pitching in Tampa for long. Unfortunately, he wasn't, but not because of a seemingly imminent promotion to Double-A. After experiencing elbow inflammation in his right arm, he missed the rest of the regular season.
He has finally made his return in the Arizona Fall League, and appears to be healthy. In six appearances, he has thrown 22.2 innings. The results might not be pretty, as he has 5.16 ERA, but they should be taken with a massive grain of salt, especially with his 22 strikeouts and just 6 walks.
Even if his Fall League numbers do not turn heads, there is still reason to believe that Kaprielian has made the most of his limited exposure this season. According to a scouting report from Jesse Burkhart at Today's Knuckleball, Kaprielian was sitting in the mid-nineties with his fastball, after being clocked in the upper-eighties and lower-nineties in college. Scouts noticed a spike in velocity as soon as Kaprielian signed with the Yankees in 2015, but his consistent velo after so much time off is encouraging.
It also looks like he may have made some mechanical adjustments. In college, he was considered to have an over the top delivery, which can be seen here:
It may be a product of differing camera angles, but it looks like his arm slot today is a bit lower than it was before:
In the footage shown from his college days, when throwing out of the windup, he would start his delivery, and then pause right before his leg kick. In the latter video, he no longer does that, choosing instead to complete his delivery in one motion.
Whether these adjustments were geared towards keeping him healthy or improving his effectiveness, it is good to see that Kaprielian is willing to work with the Yankees to reach his potential. Where he might lose some deception by lowering his arm slot, he could get more natural fading action on his changeup. In fact, Burkhart described Kaprielian's off-speed pitch as "above average," after scouts said it was the least advanced pitch in his arsenal a year ago.
Hopefully these tweaks are the precursor to a healthy and effective 2017 season. If Kaprielian can build up his innings total and rise through the ranks of the Yankees farm system, his 2016 might be looked back at as a minor speed bump on his road to success in pinstripes.