Safety has a negative connotation as it lacks inspiration of greater things when it comes to the draft. However, safety brings with it sense of certainty in terms of future value. James Kaprielian brings safety to the draft.
Kaprielian doesn't pop on paper, or the radar, as a future ace. He doesn't project as a future ace. He projects as a middle of the rotation arm and projects to be a safe bet to do so. The 6'4" 200 pound frame gives him a strong foundation. His 88-94 fastball brings major league average velocity and grades. His diverse pitch selection includes a curve, slider, and a changeup. The curve fits his high 3/4 arm slot well and is his best pitch. The changeup has improved vastly this season alone and helped him gain a nine-inning no hitter but the game was tied at 0-0 and continued anyway.
He has the stuff to be a mid-rotation guy. He has the build. He has the control (2.78 BB/9). He projects to have good command.
So what's not inspiring?
The fastball doesn't have great movement. His stuff is really average overall at the major league level. His delivery has issues.
He's a classic up, down, and out guy that drains him of any momentum coming from his leg kick and forces him to collapse his push off leg into a drop and drive. That costs him in that his elbow at times can drift up into an inverted W and create some timing issues. He doesn't pronate well through his release and doesn't have a great deceleration path. His delivery is below average in my book.
Stick him as a long relief arm and middle reliever where he can hit the upper end of his velocity range. His curve will work well in relief if he can't make it as a starter.
Maybe if his delivery can get cleaned up a lot to keep his velocity more consistent which could help him be a #3 starter.
Projected Draft Round
Recent mock drafts have him projected in the top half of the first round.
Will he sign?
Not much reason not to as a college junior with little projection left.
Kaprielian hit 95 mph on the radar gun and was routinely 92-94. Many of those swings and misses came on his curveball—long his best best secondary pitch—which was in fine form, but he’s developed another legitimate weapon in his changeup. In Kaprielian’s words, he’s "quieted down" his change, throwing it in the low 80s with better arm speed. He can still show a slider too, giving him a four-pitch mix.
He didn't have the best stuff in a U.S. collegiate national team rotation that included Louisville's Kyle Funkhouser and Vanderbilt's Carson Fulmer last summer, but Kaprielian did have the best "pitchability" and is the safest bet to become a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues. He works with an 89-92 mph fastball as a starter, and he's effective at that velocity because he can locate it.
Kaprielian's best pitch is his changeup, and he also has a solid slider and a curveball to give batters a different look. With his command and strong frame, he's built to be a starter.