Once considered a premium top prospect, right-hander James Kaprielian was drafted in the first round (16th overall) by the New York Yankees all the way back in 2015. He looked good in his first stint in pro ball but it wouldn’t take long for injuries to crop up, eventually leading to a Tommy John surgery. Injuries would be a recurring theme for him for the next few years, taking a lot of the shine off his prospect status.
Kaprielian came over as the third piece of the Sonny Gray trade, along with fellow prospects Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler. Kaprielian had just had TJ surgery a few months prior to the trade so the A’s knew they were getting a pitcher they’d have to be patient with. Besides the surgery, ‘Kap’ had only reached A+ down in the minors. It would take until 2020 for him to finally get the call to Oakland and make his big league debut.
What were the expectations?
After a couple decent seasons as a member of the Oakland rotation, there was some belief that 2023 could be the year the 29-year old finally put it all together and took a step forward. He had a couple seasons under his belt and had shown flashes at times of why he was once considered a top prospect. But he had also just had offseason shoulder surgery, which affected his offseason routine and cost him most of Spring Training. Still, he managed to avoid a season-opening IL assignment and was a member of the rotation to begin the year.
Things went south almost immediately for Kaprielian. His first three starts were unmitigated disasters, so much so that he was yanked from the rotation and sent to the ‘pen with the hopes a reset might help. Three uneven relief appearances prompted the club to take the next step and demote him to Triple-A, where he looked really good in two starts. With the A’s desperate for pitching help they brought him back up to the big leagues and he seemed to have found his footing. Kap rejoined the rotation and made eight more starts along the way to a flat 4.00 ERA, looking much better than the guy at the beginning of April.
Unfortunately for him and the club, he just could never seem to shake the injury bug. He hit the IL at the end of June due to a right shoulder strain. That injury wound up ending his season and prompted him to get arthroscopic surgery. It was the second time in less than a year that his throwing shoulder needed surgery.
After the season Kaprielian decided to test the waters of free agency, opting to try out the market for the first time in his career, where he remains today. While he could find his way back to the Green & Gold, it might be best for both sides to move on. He can get a fresh start somewhere else, while the A’s can continue to get a look at the younger arms in their system.