Relief pitcher Chance Adams arrived in Charleston on July 11 after a thrilling last two months, and many more young prospects may be heading to the Lowcountry as well as the 2015 season reaches its final month and a half.
On June 1, Adams pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief and struck out six batters to try and keep the Dallas Baptist Patriots alive in the regional final of the NCAA Tournament. However, the offense could not rally back and DBU lost the elimination game to visiting Virginia Commonwealth, who advanced to the Super Regional in Miami.
Eight days later, Adams heard his named called by the New York Yankees on the second day of the MLB Draft. He was selected by the Bronx Bombers in the fifth round, signed with the squad, and joined short-season Single-A Staten Island on June 18.
"At the start of the day I woke up a little late and kept checking my phone," said Adams. "I started to get calls a little later and then the fifth round came around, the Yankees called and I was so excited. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to pitch for the best, most historic, franchise in baseball."
Adams made his professional debut on June 22 against the Connecticut Tigers. He allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits and lasted 1 2/3 innings in the relief appearance. Since then, Adams has not allowed an earned run in five outings.
During his short stint in Staten Island, Adams never had a chance to pitch in front of the home fans at Richmond County Bank Ballpark. All four of his New York-Penn League outings came on the road. Adams went 1-0 with a 0.93 ERA and struck out 13 batters.
"My first outing in Staten Island, I fell in love with my cutter a little too much, when I shouldn't have" said the Scottsdale, AZ native. "I went back to what worked for me in college, my fastball, curveball, change up and it got hitters out, so it's been nice to see what worked then, continues to work now."
The second game of Staten Island's July 10 doubleheader in Aberdeen was suspended due to a power outage at the ballpark, and it was lights out on Adams' time with Staten Island as well. The young righty boarded a plane to Charleston the next day and arrived in the Lowcountry for the last two games of the RiverDogs' home series against Kannapolis.
As this season progresses and the next one begins, more young prospects from the 2015 draft class will be making their way to Charleston as well and following in Adams' footsteps.
35 draft picks (23 pitchers) signed with the Yankees by the July 17 deadline. At the top of the list is the Yankees' highest selection in the draft, right-handed pitcher James Kaprielian (No. 16 overall).
During his three years at UCLA, Kaprielian improved his draft stock from a 40th round pick by the Seattle Mariners out of high school to a first round pick by the Yankees. After making 34 appearances out of the bullpen with the Bruins his freshman year, Kaprielian spent the summer in Massachusetts with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and was a Cape Cod Baseball League All-Star.
In 2014, Kaprielian was converted to a starting pitcher at UCLA and pitched for the USA Collegiate National team in the summer, just days after losing his mother to breast cancer. He struck out 12 batters in six shutout innings for a victory over Chinese Taipei, which was recognized as USA Baseball's International Performance of the Year.
As a senior, Kaprielian went 10-4 with a 2.03 ERA and earned All-Pac-12 first team honors. On May 15, he combined with David Berg for the first no-hitter in UCLA history. Kaprielian pitched the first nine innings and Berg pitched the 10th to complete the no-hitter in extra innings.
"It would be great to see him (Kaprielian) and other arms like Chance come up and make an impact on this team," said pitching coach Tim Norton. "First of all, it's fun to get these new guys right out of the draft and on your team in pro ball and it helps that number one is baseball and they don't have school to worry about. Bottom line is that I am excited and we as a team are excited to get guys out of this year's draft to help us win some ballgames"
RiverDogs fans have seen a Yankees first-round draft pick play at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in every season this decade. During the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Slade Heathcott manned center field at The Joe. Cito Culver started 119 games at shortstop in 2012 and 100 in 2013. The 2014 R'Dogs squad was highlighted by outfielder Aaron Judge and left-handed pitcher Ian Clarkin.
Fans have yet to see a first-round pick appear in a RiverDogs uniform this season, but the organization is full of young talent throughout the ranks. As the season progresses, new faces will be arriving in Charleston to the warm welcome of all the passionate fans who fill the ballpark for every game.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.