What could have been a breakout season for James Kaprielian is over before it began.
The Yankees' top pitching prospect will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery on Tuesday to repair his right elbow, the team announced Thursday morning. The procedure will be performed by Los Angeles-based surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Kaprielian, New York's first-round pick out of UCLA in the 2015 Draft, missed most of last season battling a flexor tendon problem. MLB.com's No. 74 overall prospect appeared in one Major League Spring Training game on March 16, tossing two hitless innings with three strikeouts, but was sent for an MRI last week after reporting discomfort in his pitching elbow. He traveled to Los Angeles on Tuesday to visit ElAttrache.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the decision to undergo Tommy John surgery was up to Kaprielian, who debated his future on Wednesday after the surgeon and Yankees team doctors all recommended the same path.
The surgery is expected to keep Kaprielian off the field until early 2018.
"You see the ability he possesses, but you have to be healthy to be able to harness it," Cashman told the New York Post. "You know it's there. At some point, we're looking forward to having it for an extended period of time."
The Yankees placed Kaprielian on the Minor League disabled list last week, jeopardizing what some thought would be a season in which the right-hander made a case for his Major League debut. His other option would have been more rest and rehab.
"Unfortunately right now, the front of his pro career has had some injuries with that elbow," Cashman told the Post. "He has an opportunity to have a very long career, regardless, so that's why every step is important. We have to take the right steps so we can ensure that the career path he's on is performance-related only and not gonna be dictated by missteps on the injury side."
Kaprielian is in good hands -- ElAttrache operated on Zack Greinke's shoulder and also repaired the Achilles tendon of Kobe Bryant, an 18-time NBA All-Star, in 2013. According to Newsday, ElAttrache has performed at least 14 Tommy John surgeries on Major Leaguers including Chad Billingsley, Brandon Beachy, Tyler Skaggs and the late Jose Fernandez, who returned in 2016 and was voted an All-Star.
Kaprielian, 23, went 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts for Class A Advanced Tampa last year, his final appearance coming on April 21. He pitched in five games in 2015.