James Kaprielian Gets Back On The Mound For Oakland
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—The package the Yankees sent to the A’s last July to obtain righthander Sonny Gray contained three players: shortstop Jorge Mateo, outfielder Dustin Fowler and righthander James Kaprielian. Mateo spent the 2018 season at Triple-A Nashville. After recovering from a grisly knee injury suffered in his major league debut with the Yankees, Fowler split his season between Nashville and the major leagues. He put up a .610 OPS over 192 at-bats with the A’s.
Kaprielian, however, has yet to make his official Oakland debut. He had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and then dealt with shoulder issues that kept him off the mound for all of 2018. That changed on Friday, when he started the first inning of Oakland’s instructional league game against the White Sox.
He pitched just one inning and didn’t use all of his four-pitch repertoire, but the outing still represented a step closer to getting his career back on track after the long layoff.
After surrendering a leadoff single to Caberea Weaver, Kaprielian settled down and retired the next three hitters on a pair of groundouts and a flyout to center. Kaprielian’s fastball sat between 88-91 mph, and he complemented the pitch with a slurvy slider in the low 80s. His fastball touched as a high as 99 mph when he was with Yankees, and all of his offspeed pitches flashed at least above-average.
Kaprielian appeared to be throwing from a slightly lower slot than in his days in the New York system, and his fastball had natural cutting life as a result. Scouts who had seen him previously said he looked understandably rusty, and that neither of his pitches appeared to have a whole lot behind them compared to what they saw when he was at full strength.
If he’s back and ready to go come Opening Day next year, it will mark nearly three full years since Kaprielian has made a start in the regular season. After battling through a litany of injuries, Friday’s outing marked progress toward that goal.
The Reds selected lefthander Jacob Heatherly out of high school in Cullman, Ala., in the third round of the 2017 draft and gave him an above-slot $1 million signing bonus on the strength of his three-pitch mix of a fastball, curveball and changeup.
He struggled with command and control in 2018, walking 40 hitters in 38.2 innings with Rookie-level Greeneville, but showed dynamic stuff on Friday in an early instructional league game against the Brewers.
After a rough first inning dealing with a very inconsistent strike zone, Heatherly, now 20 years old, dominated. He threw his low-90s fastball for strikes to both sides of the plate, then backed it up with a sharp curveball and a mid-80s changeup. The fastball showed slight tail away from righthanders, and his curveball had downer break and sharp bite at times. He got three swinging strikeouts in the second inning before yielding to righthander Jared Solomon. Scouts in attendance noted that Heatherly looked noticeably slimmer than at previous points in his pro career.
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A’s outfield prospect Lazaro Armenteros hits the ball hard. He socked eight home runs with low Class A Beloit in a truncated full-season debut after signing out of Cuba for $3 million in the summer of 2016.
His body is a chiseled 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, and on Friday he used that mass to slam a single to dead center field in the late innings of the game. The hit sounded extremely loud coming off of his bat, and the TrackMan data backed up the audio by registering the knock at 105 mph.
The White Sox threw two pitchers who missed all of 2018 with injuries during their game Friday. Lefthander Andre Davis, acquired from the Royals with A.J. Puckett in the Melky Cabrera trade of 2017, relieved starter Codi Heuer and showed a fastball in the 93-94 mph range as well as a short, mid-80s slider. The fastball had two-seam life in on lefthanders.
Given his size, velocity and handedness, Davis, whom the Royals selected in the eighth round in 2015 out of Arkansas Pine-Bluff, is a prospect to keep an eye on once he gets back on the mound next season.
The other rehabber, Victor Diaz, whom the White Sox got from the Red Sox as the fourth piece (along with Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech and Luis Alexander Basabe) was not as lucky. He missed all of 2018 with all of a shoulder injury and left with a trainer after facing three hitters on Friday.
Before the injury, Diaz’s fastball sat in the 89-90 mph range and showed the ability to drop his low-80s breaking ball in for strikes.
Keep an eye on White Sox righthander Lane Ramsey, who pitched in the late innings of Friday’s game. The team’s 23rd-round selection out of Oklahoma in the 2018 draft is an intimidating presence on the mound at 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, and backs it up with a mid-90s fastball and a low-80s changeup.
He got hit around a bit in his pro debut with Rookie-level Great Falls, but it’s easy to dream on the frame and velocity.
Similarly, A’s lefthander Austin Briggs brought an intriguing three-pitch mix headed by a lively low-90s fastball and backed up with a breaking ball and changeup in the low 80s. Drafted in the 29th round in 2018 out of McNeese State, Briggs struck out nearly 10 hitters per nine innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League in his pro debut.
White Sox outfielder Anderson Comas made plenty of loud contact on Friday with a smooth lefthanded stroke from an impressive 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame. He hit .306/.339/.388 as an 18-year-old in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2018.