Prized Yankees prospect James Kaprielian is slated to undergo Tommy John surgery next week, per a club announcement. While the news is obviously a disappointment, it was perhaps the anticipated outcome at this stage.
Kaprielian, who was taken 16th overall in the 2015 draft, had already missed time with elbow issues early in his career. The former UCLA righty was limited to just 56 frames (including a fall league placement) in his first two seasons as a pro. When he experienced elbow discomfort again this spring, it was determined that the surgery was required.
There had been at least some hope that Kaprielian could contribute to the Yanks as soon as this year. Despite his limited action over the past two seasons, he impressed when he was on the hill, compiling an overall 2.89 ERA with 10.0 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 since joining the organization.
Instead, Kaprielian will require a layoff that will likely extend into the beginning of the 2018 season. Though the organization will hope that he’ll progress as a pitcher even as he recovers, that extended delay is hardly a positive development. And while Kaprielian won’t be earning MLB service time during his layoff, his future now faces added uncertainty — though it still retains plenty of promise.
Entering the 2017 season, Kaprielian drew strong ratings from most major prospect analysts. Baseball America ranked him fifth in the Yankees organization, while MLB.com placed him just one spot lower on its list. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, who rated Kaprielian fourth among the club’s prospects, wrote that the youngster has an arsenal “approaching [that of] a top-of-the-rotation arm,” while noting that his ability to maintain his velocity and stay healthy remained major points in question.