James Kaprielian has made only eight appearances in the Minor Leagues, including three in full-season ball, but the Major Leagues could be within reach this season.
In a Friday interview with a New York radio station, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Kaprielian, the 16th overall pick in the 2015 Draft, could pitch in the Majors in 2017. Kaprielian is the Yankees' top pitching prospect and 58th overall among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects.
"He's kind of a wild card," Cashman told WFAN. "He's a guy that can pitch in the big leagues this year if he stays healthy, but it's just a matter of where does he start the year."
Kaprielian missed all but three games last season with an injured flexor tendon in his right elbow. He went 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 18 innings for Class A Advanced Tampa through April 21, then made seven starts in the Arizona Fall League. The 22-year-old right-hander was 2-3 with a 4.33 ERA and 26 strikeouts over 27 frames in the prospect-laden circuit.
When healthy, Kaprielian boasts a solid four-pitch mix that he throws with plus control, including a fastball that tops out at 99 mph. The UCLA product was invited to big league camp for Spring Training, then will return to Tampa or move up to Double-A Trenton when the Minor League season begins on April 6.
"He's someone that you could probably plug and play in the big league level pretty soon," Cashman told WFAN. "It's hard to say. You sit behind home plate and you watch him pitch and he looks like a big leaguer right now. But he just hasn't had a chance to show it down in the pro level yet because last year was his first year and he got derailed [by the injury]."
Kaprielian has made it clear he wants to pitch in the big leagues.
"I want to be a No. 1 [starter]. I want to be the guy and I want the ball," the California native told MLB.com last month during the Yankees Winter Warmup. "I'm a competitor. I'm not going to go out of my way [to announce that] unless you ask me, but yeah, I want the ball. I want to be the guy. I want to be the ace."
Cashman also told the radio station the Clint Frazier, the organization's No. 2 prospect, primarily will play left field for Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre. The longtime center fielder batted .228 with three homers and seven RBIs in 25 games with the RailRiders last season after coming over from Cleveland in the deal for reliever Andrew Miller. Cashman said Frazier "needs to conquer" Triple-A this season.