Yankees pitching prospect James Kaprielian is being shut down for the rest of the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. This is just the latest development in what has already been a rough start to the year for the New York Yankees in terms of injuries.
What to Know About James Kaprielian and His Injury
He will undergo the surgery in Los Angeles next Tuesday, and the rehab process is expected to take 12-18 months. Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the doctor who provided a second opinion to Kaprielian after his initial MRI, will be performing the operation.
It’s worth noting that, according to further comments made by the Yankees general manager, Kaprielian made the request to use Dr. ElAttrache. In a Newsday article published this past Saturday, Brian Cashman said, “the player [James Kaprielian] asked to see ElAttrache and he’s going to go see ElAttrache.”
When asked earlier this week about the status of the team’s highly-touted prospect, prior to the announcement that he would be undergoing Tommy John surgery, Cashman said, “I’m very concerned, given the fact that this has gone on since last April.”
Kaprielian, a 2015 first round draft pick of the Yanks, has been hampered by injury issues for a majority of his time with the organization. Since being drafted, he has pitched in just 14 games, with seven of those coming in the minor leagues and seven more coming in the Arizona Fall League this past offseason.
Why Kaprielian is so Highly Touted
His outings in the minors have been impressive enough to keep him at the top of most Yankees prospect rankings. Though he has yet to even reach AA, he was 2-2 with a 1.55 ERA and averaged over a strikeout per inning in his short time in classes below.
Kaprielian was a multi-sport athlete in high school, but his performances on the baseball diamond stuck out enough to get him drafted in 2012. He was selected in the 40th round of the draft by the Seattle Mariners, but ultimately decided to gamble on himself long-term and attend college.
As a freshman, he was a go-to reliever for the UCLA Bruins and pitched in 34 games during their run to a National Championship. The next year, he transitioned from a reliable arm in the pen to a front-end starter.
In his next, and last, two seasons at UCLA, Kaprielian pitched in a combined 32 games (31 starts) to the tune of a sub-2.3 ERA and a K/9 above nine.
His high rankings as a prospect are more a result of his great collegiate career than his performances during his short time in the Yankees system.
According to Major League Baseball’s prospect watch, “Kaprielian has a deep arsenal with three pitches that grade at plus at times.” Before this season, they ranked him as the Yankees number six prospect, and the 58th-best prospect in the league.
His repertoire consists of a mid-90s fastball, which he can dial up to 95+, a reliable curveball and changeup, as well as a change-of-pace slider.
A Concerning Start to His Career
The 2016 season was supposed to be the beginning of Kaprielian’s road to the show, but was hampered by a flexor tendon injury in his elbow. Baseball America ranked him outside their top 100 prospects in 2016, but noted that he “could zoom through the minor leagues.”
For 2017, they ranked him as the 87th-best prospect in baseball. This year, due to his injury last season, was going to be his chance to rise up the ranks and show the baseball world that he deserved the hype.
The Yankees eased him along throughout Spring Training; Cashman stated that prior to his placement on the disabled list, “he’d been throwing great, looking great, the feedback had been great. No complaints.”
Instead, he’ll spend at least the next calendar year recovering and rehabbing from a very serious surgery. While this is likely not the last we will hear from Kaprielian, one can only wonder how long it will be before we see him pitch on the big league level.