(Mandatory Photo Credit: Don Liebig, UCLABruins.com)
James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
One of the top pitching prospects in this year’s draft is UCLA starting pitcher James Kaprielian. In the latest mock draft done by Baseball America, the 21-year old right-hander is projected to go ninth overall to the Chicago Cubs. Kaprielian has been picked in the MLB Draft before. In 2012, he was selected in the 40th round by the Seattle Mariners, but elected to go play for the Bruins.
This season, Kaprielian went 10-4 with a 2.02 ERA in 17 starts, striking out 114, and walking 33 batters. He was part of a UCLA team that was the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lost to Maryland in the regionals on Monday.
In that Game 3 loss on Monday, Kaprielian pitched out of the bullpen on three days rest after started the first game against Cal St. Bakersfield (seven innings, two runs, five hits, six strikeouts, one walk). In that appearance against the Terps, he went two innings, gave up one run on two hits, struck out one, and walked one, using mainly his offspeed pitches.
One of the stats that I found impressive about this young pitcher is that opposing baserunners don’t usually steal against him. This past season, runners were safe only twice on eight stolen base attempts.
To get more info on Kaprielian, who has been both a starter and a reliever over his three year with the Bruins, I spoke with Nathan Eberhardt, a writer over at Go Joe Bruin, UCLA’s Fansided site, to help give us a scouting report about what Kaprielian brings to the table:
Ricky: What improvements did you see from Karpeilian from his sophomore to junior year?
Nathan: Statistically, improvements were made almost across the board. The biggest growth area for him this last year has been getting more comfortable with his curve ball (11-5 break, high 70s to low 80s), fleshing out his off-speed repertoire, which is where he does most of his damage. Here’s a comparison of some his stats from the last two seasons:
– 2014 – 2.29 ERA – 9.17 K/9 – 2.97 BB/9 – .201 BAA
– 2015 – 2.03 ERA – 10.69 K/9 – 2.58 BB/9 – .226 BAA
R: What was the best outing you saw from the right-hander this year?
N: His best outing was probably his no-hitter against Arizona on May 15. It was UCLA’s first ever no-hitter, and although it was technically a combined effort, Kap pitched a full nine innings and only came out when the game went into extras tied 0-0. Our closer, David Berg, came in and continued to blank the Wildcats in the 10th before a walk-off win in the B10. So Kap doesn’t get credit for that complete game, but he earned it. One of the things that makes that game so impressive is that he used his developing curve ball as the out pitch on 9 of his 11 strikeouts.
R: In your opinion, does he project more as a starter or a reliever at the next level?
N: I’ve only ever seen him projected as a starter, and that makes sense to me. He pitched an average of six and a half innings for each of his starts this year, with one complete game, if you count the nine innings in the no-hitter. He’s definitely a team leader, if that kind of thing fits into your scouting. He’s also got four pitches, which are:
- Fastball (89-92 mph, but can reach back for 93-95 on occasion)
- Slider (low 80s), excellent command
- Change-up (80-85), nasty sinking movement (this is his favorite pitch)
- Curveball (79-85)
He’s got excellent command/location. He’s not going to overpower you with his stuff, but he’s an incredibly intelligent pitcher that mixes his pitches well and can reliably place them where he wants to. He’s got solid-to-good mechanics with an over-the-top arm slot. I’m no pitching coach, but I’ve seen scouting reports that say that there are a couple of minor tweaks he could make in his follow-through, but nothing concerning.
We would like to thank Nathan for taking some time to answer questions on what should be one of the first pitchers off the board when the MLB Draft starts on Monday night.