Yankees Starting Pitcher Prospect James Kaprielian: “I Want The Ball”

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees will open their Spring Training camp in Tampa on February 15. And for the first time that many can recall, there will be a multitude of young and talented arms on display. At this point, they’re all labeled as “prospects, ” and no one has a handle on which ones will stand on the mound at Yankees Stadium in the future. One of those prospects, however, has stepped up declaring himself as wanting to be the “ace of the staff” shortly. Good for him.

For all the things the Yankees do well, developing pitching talent has not been one of them. Whether it’s been bad luck, bad coaching, disinterest favoring their offense, who knows? And you can think back, for instance, to what the team did with someone like Joba Chamberlain, their jack-in-the-box starter/reliever/closer. No doubt, Chamberlain self-combusted himself as well. But was he a head case before all the confusion thrust upon by the Yankees, or did the organization lead him in that direction?

The Yankees are also working with two other starters who can’t seem to get out of their way, Michael Pineda, and Luis Severino. Nothing the Yankees have tried with Pineda has worked. Thus, he’s entering the 2017 season barely holding onto a job in the rotation. Severino is younger and with less experience than Pineda, so there’s still plenty of hope for him. But still, no one has been able to tap into his head to make him realize the steps he needs to take to maximize his talent at this level.

The Yankees Need To Get This Right

Which now brings us to James Kaprielian. Unlike many of the other prospects joining the team in Tampa, Kaprielian has a bonafide chance to be added to the Yankees rotation at some point this season. Others like Chance Adams are hoping only to pick up where he left off last season, putting together another “Hey, look at me” season at the Triple-A level.

Still others, like Justus Sheffield, will be happy to make their way to the Triple-A level, staying there, and continuing as the Dark Horse in the race to move up quickly.

Kaprielian, though, has kicked it up a notch telling the New York Post:

"“I want to be a No. 1,” Kaprielian said this week during the team’s Winter Warmup. “I want to be the guy. I want the ball. I’m a competitor. I want to be the ace. There are a lot of guys in our organization who are like that — and that’s a good thing.”"

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The team believed that Kaprielian might pitch his way into the rotation last season, but that was cut short when he landed on the DL in April. 2017 could very well be his year. And if it is, the Yankees must be heartened by his initiative in stating that he wants to be the ace of the staff in the future. This initiative provides a hint that although he knows the competition is severe, he believes that he’s a cut above the rest.

Even more significant perhaps, is that he’s not parading down Broadway with a babe on each arm telling the world he’s the best like Matt Harvey, who despite all his bravado, sports a very pedestrian 29-28 lifetime record in the big leagues.

The Yankees Should Be Pleased With Kaprielian’s Initiative

If you want to be the best, the first step towards that is telling yourself you want to be the best. The next step and the one Kaprielian will be taking this season is to prove that he has the makings to be the best, mentally as well as physically. Some might do a double-take on what he said about being the ace of the staff, labeling him as a guy who should just be “waiting his turn.”

The trick for the Yankees will be to take the initiative he is showing – and not screw it up. He can’t, for instance, be the first guy they call up to make a spot start when Masahiro Tanaka needs that sixth day, or when CC Sabathia needs to skip a start. Somewhere, he needs to make 25 starts every fifth day and should not be messed with by anyone in the organization.

Next: Who Makes It To The Bronx First - Torres Or Frazier

“I want the ball.” You gotta like that.