Will James Kaprielian Pitch for the Yankees in 2016?
Way back in November when we were all just about one month removed from the 2015 baseball season, New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said in a press conference that he hoped top 2015 draft James Kaprielian will reach the majors by the end of 2016.
My initial reaction was a little bit of confusion mixed in with some excitement.
In an era where major league pitching has been marred by tommy john surgery and chronic injuries, it didn’t make much sense for me to see the Yankees put their highest draft pick since 1993 on the fast track to the major leagues. Some of these pitchers are stretched out too quick and once they receive a major workload their arm begins to crumble.
Exhibit A, San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, who was selected 10th overall in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Washington. Lincecum had spent just one and half seasons down in the minors, accumulating just 62.2 innings pitched before being rushed into the Giants rotation. While he did enjoy some early success, including two NL Cy Young Awards, ‘the freak’ fell apart after just four seasons in San Fran.
There are endless theories as to why Lincecum fell apart, including his funky delivery and his decrease in velocity, but how about the fact that after tossing just 62.2 minor league innings, Lincecum was called up and immediately more than doubled his workload in just one season, as he pitched 146.1 major league innings in 2007. The following two seasons he logged over 220 innings, and in 2010 and 2011 he pitched over 210 innings, and then it was all down hill from there.
Now at age 31, Lincecum finds himself a free-agent trying to latch on with a club as a reclamation project.
The other problem with rushing pitchers to the majors is the fact that they are psychologically not ready.
Exhibit B, New York Yankees ‘strikeout factory’ Jacob Lindgren.
The Yankees tried to rush southpaw Jacob Lindgren to the majors last season after a brief stint in the minors, and after just seven innings in which he allowed four earned runs on five hits, Lindgren and his 5.14 ERA were sent packing back to Scranton. Sure Lindgren was fanning batters left and right in the minors, but once he was called up to the majors he just wasn’t ready.
Now, Lindgren who was once considered a lock to the make the Yankees bullpen, is competing with left-hander James Pazos in spring training to make the Yankees opening day roster.
With pitching at a premium nowadays, you’ll always find those arms that don’t pan out because they are given an unfair timeline to develop. Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Rick Porcello… the list just goes on an on.
But the 21-year old James Kaprielian might be different. *Cue the excitement*
When he was drafted 16th overall by the Yankees in 2015 out of UCLA, many considered the 6’4″ right-hander to be the most polished pitching prospect in the draft, even though four pitchers were selected before him. (Dillon Tate, Tyler Jay, Carson Fulmer and Kolby Allard)
But is a 2016 debut really in reach for the 21-year-old Kaprielian, even if it’s just as a September call up when rosters expand during the latter end of the season?
Related Story: How High are the Yankees Expectations for James Kaprielian?
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media on Friday that it’s not entirely out of the question, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild seems to agree.
"“He’s an impressive kid,” Rothschild said. “He’s as advertised. But he hasn’t played very long. He just instinctively has a really good understanding of the game and from what I’ve seen on tape and what I’ve seen, pretty good command of what he’s doing and he has an idea of what he needs to do and I think he’ll put it out there when the games start.”"
Brian Cashman added;
"“Listen, if somebody is better down (in the minors) than anything we have up here, then we will expedite the process. But to answer directly your question, is it unrealistic? It’s less realistic. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible. You can’t ever deny anybody that has the ability to impact and help you win games now.”"
Kaprielian has been getting a ton of attention down in Tampa, Florida, including some one-on-one time with former Yankees captain Derek Jeter.
Is this a sign that we’ll see him in 2016?
I guess we’ll have to wait and see.