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Oakland A’s 2018 Community Prospect List #8: James Kaprielian on his way back from injury

He’s been delayed by Tommy John surgery, but should return in 2018.

Artist rendering of what Kaprielian would look like with a working arm.
Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Oakland A’s acquired three prospects for Sonny Gray last summer, and all of them have landed within the Top 8 of our Community Prospect List. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. A.J. Puk, LHP (+62%)
  2. Franklin Barreto, SS (+56%)
  3. Jorge Mateo, SS (+22%)
  4. Dustin Fowler, OF (+24%)
  5. Sean Murphy, C (+0%)
  6. Jesus Luzardo, LHP (+37%)
  7. Austin Beck, OF (+14%)
  8. James Kaprielian, RHP (+2%)

Among pitchers who were traded during the 2017 season, the closest comp to Sonny was Jose Quintana. The lefty went from the South Side of Chicago to the North Side, and in exchange the White Sox received four prospects — one elite name, another Top 100 guy, and two more throw-ins.

The A’s went a different direction, as usual. They didn’t get anyone on par with Eloy Jimenez, who is a consensus Top 10 prospect right now, but all three of the players they received rank on at least one of this winter’s Top 100 lists — Jorge Mateo will be a consensus pick, Dustin Fowler has already shown up on Baseball America’s version, and James Kaprielian is all the way up at No. 56 according to Keith Law of ESPN, with several more versions still to come (MLB Pipeline, Baseball Prospectus, John Sickels).

The top of Quintana’s trade return was better, which makes sense because he was slightly more valuable at the time of the deal. But the bottom of Sonny’s was far superior, because the A’s were willing to gamble on injuries in order to maximize the potential upside. If Fowler and Kaprielian had been healthy at the end of July, then they likely wouldn’t have been available to Oakland. A similar comparison can be made with the Gerrit Cole trade, in which the Pirates settled for players who were safer bets but carried limited potential. Remember, even the best and/or safest prospects can still flame out, and often do.

That all brings us to Kaprielian, who is yet to throw a pitch in the A’s organization. Once he returns to the mound, we can begin to get an idea of what he has to offer post-surgery. Will his velocity sit in the more sustainable low-90s, or will he be able to maintain the mid-90s he’s shown in the past? How will his wide array of secondaries look? Will he be able to control everything like he he previously could?

We can sit around and guess at these questions, but ultimately we’ll have to wait and see. The difference is we’re waiting to find out not just if he can reach MLB, but rather whether he can rise to the top of a rotation once he gets there. Not every Tommy John patient has that kind of upside waiting for him on the other side, nor would any healthy pitcher who’d have been available in his place in that trade. That’s a nice change for a team who already has plenty of backend rotation arms but needs to find its next ace.

Here is the process:

  • Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of “Vote: Player Name” for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official “Vote” comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group.
  • Choose your ONE favorite by Rec’ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec’s earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee.
  • In the comments, below the official voting, the community will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be “Nomination: Player Name”.
  • After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec’ing his comment. The player with the most Rec’s earns the nomination.
  • If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank.

* * *

The new nominee is Logan Shore. The righty was a college teammate of A.J. Puk, and he was drafted shortly after Puk in the 2nd round in 2016. Shore was seen as a polished fast-track candidate, but a lat injury slowed his progress last season and kept him in High-A ball. He got knocked around in the Arizona Fall League, but it’s worth noting he was facing much higher competition, in a hitter’s league to boot, and the biggest takeaway is that he was healthy and got some extra work in after an abbreviated summer.

Scouting grades: MLB Pipeline
Scouting reports: John Sickels
Hitter average rates: 100 wRC+, 8.0% BB, 20.0% Ks

Logan Shore, RHP

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A+): 4.09 ERA, 72⅔ ip, 74 Ks, 16 BB, 5 HR, 3.43 FIP
2017 stats (AFL): 6.00 ERA, 24 ip, 18 Ks, 2 BB, 5 HR

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting Grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 55 | Overall: 50

Missed a month with a lat strain; fastball around 90 and a bit higher can play up due to contrast with excellent change-up; slider needs more consistency as it varies between mediocre and plus, probably more of a number four starter than an ace unless his velocity picks up further, or unless the breaking ball becomes more consistent, which could happen. ETA 2019.

* * *

Lazaro Armenteros, OF

Expected level: Single-A | Age 19

2017 stats (RK): 181 PAs, 131 wRC+, 4 HR, 10 SB, 8.8% BB, 26.5% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

60 speed, 50 or 55 raw power, needs polish with swing mechanics but draws positive reviews for bat speed and overall athleticism; glove needs work as well but could be OK in center with more experience; long way off but I like the upside and have a good intuitive feeling on this one. ETA 2021.

* * *

Grant Holmes, RHP

Expected level: Triple-A | Age 22

2017 stats (AA): 4.49 ERA, 148⅓ ip, 150 Ks, 61 BB, 15 HR, 4.02 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 50

Relies on low-to-mid-90s power sinker, mixed with power curveball; change-up and overall command remain inconsistent and results don’t always seem to match the stuff; on the right day he looks like a number three or even number two starter but consistency issues could make him more of a four; it would be interesting to see how he would look in the bullpen although I haven’t heard of any moves in that direction. ETA 2019.

* * *

Sheldon Neuse, 3B

Expected level: Double-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A+/AA): 169 PAs, 176 wRC+, 7 HR, 8.9% BB, 27.2% Ks, .510 BABIP
2017 stats (AFL): 99 PAs, .315/.364/.554, 5 HR, 7.1% BB, 18.2% Ks, .338 BABIP

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 45 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50

I tend to fall in love with this type of player; tools don’t stand out, best physical tool is his throwing arm, raw power is average but he knows how to get to it and has hit at every level; not a butcher at shortstop though range is limited, fits better at third base in long run. ETA late 2018.

* * *

Greg Deichmann, OF

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2017 stats (A-): 195 PAs, 171 wRC+, 8 HR, 14.4% BB, 20.5% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and Sickels scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 55 | Field: 45 | Overall: 50

Lefty hitter with 55 or 60 power; hit quite well in pro debut and will probably mash in full-season A-ball with Double-A being the first real test; some question about how batting average and OBP will hold up; right field defensive profile with decent arm but mediocre range. ETA late 2020.

* * *

Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec’ing his “Vote: (Player Name)” comment, and post your nomination(s) as well!