2015 MLB Draft Profile: RHP James Kaprielian, UCLA

This is the third part of my 2015 MLB Draft profile series. This time I look at another local kid in right-handed pitcher James Kaprielian of UCLA.

Previous entires
Dakota Chalmers
Chris Betts

Vitals
6’4, 200 pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
DOB: March 2, 1994
Days younger than Julio Urias: -894

Location
Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles

Rankings
Baseball America: 17
ESPN: 27
FanGraphs: 36
MLB.com: 28
Perfect Game: ?
Scouting Baseball: 20

Slot recommended bonus (No. 24): $2,094,400
Slot recommended bonus (No. 35): $1,756,100

Editor’s note: All information of draft prospects compiled from internet sources, scouting reports and video.

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If you know anything about my preference when it comes to the draft, you know I lean heavily toward prep players. But after watching a lot of video and reading a lot of reports on Kaprielian, I’m really high on him.

The big right-handed pitcher out of UCLA is one of the most complete and polished pitchers available early in the draft. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he knows how to pitch and get hitters out. His best performance came on May 15, when he tossed nine no-hit innings (four walks, 11 strikeouts) against a strong University of Arizona club. Andrew Friedman and Josh Byrnes were reportedly in attendance for that performance.

Kaprielian has a fastball that ranges from the 89-92 MPH range to 93-95 MPH at times. The speed varies, but if he be consistently in the 90-93 MPH range, that might be best for him going forward. But the ability to touch the mid-90s in encouraging. He’s able to locate the pitch where he wants, which helps it play up. The ability to reach back for extra velocity is nice, but he’ll also need to be able to command said velocity. If he can do that, his fastball could tick up from the 50-55 range (20-80 scale) to the 55-60 range. It has a little run and sink to it, making it a much more viable pitch in the long term. He tends to work on the outer part of the plate with it, so he’ll need to improve on coming inside on hitters. With that velocity, it shouldn’t be an issue.

His off-speed stuff is where he’ll make his money. He features a solid-average slider, a potentially plus-changeup and an improving average-solid-average curveball. He has the classic starter’s repertoire and gets plenty of swings-and-misses with his pitches. His slider is a low-80s pitch with tilt and the ability to command it. His changeup is his favorite pitch (kind of like Jose De Leon) and it sits in the low-to-mid-80s with good fading action. He isn’t His curveball has taken a step forward this year. During his nine no-hit innings, he amassed 11 strikeouts — nine of which came on the curveball. He throws it in the 78-81 MPH range with normally 11-5 break to it. He can also come over the top at 12-6. He has confidence in all four of his pitches.

He’s already filled out at 6’4, 200 pounds, so any projectability he had when he was drafted out of high school by the Mariners in the 40th round has already been reached. He delivers his pitches from a true over-the-top arm slot. It’s a little harder, generally, to repeat one’s delivery from this slot, but Kaprielian does it well. When he turns to deliver his pitches, his upper-half is almost pointed at a 60-65-degree angle (I’m no math whiz, so apologies if it’s wrong) toward the sky because he keeps his back stiff. The only thing that concerns me is his arm drags at times just a bit when his front foot strikes. Other than that, the rest of his mechanics are solid and he has the upside of a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Video

Because he’s a junior, he has a little leverage when it comes to negotiations. I don’t think he’d require an over-slot deal to sign at No. 24, but I also wouldn’t expect him to sign for a hometown discount, despite being from Southern California. He has been projected anywhere from the mid-teens to the supplemental first round (in which the Dodgers pick ninth, No. 35 overall). But then there was this from FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel.

While it isn’t a big deal that Friedman and Byrnes went out to see Kaprielian, seeing as it was probably a 30-minute drive to UCLA from Dodger Stadium, Epstein had to make a special trip to see Kaprielian. He could have some late helium that could push him up the draft board. And if the Cubs popped him at No. 9, he might sign for a little cheaper so they could use their second-round pick to select a guy who might have signability concerns.

I’d be really happy if the Dodgers landed a potential No. 3 starter with the 24th pick (hey, they did it with Chad Billingsley 12 years ago), but at this point, I’d be a little surprised if he were available.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.