James Kaprielian entered this season as the odds-on favorite to be the first pitcher in his draft class to hit the major leagues. After throwing in the low-90s in college, he was clocking at 99 in his first few starts. For a guy with excellent secondary stuff, a reputation for knowing how to pitch and plus control, that was a big deal. Then, disaster struck. He went down with an elbow injury after four starts, and did not return during the regular season.
However, all is not lost. Kaprielian was added to the Arizona Fall League roster. Absent the injury, this would be a surprise. The AzFL is a highly-competitive, offense-first league for advanced prospects. Other Yankees in Arizona right now include Greg Bird, Tyler Wade, Miguel Andujar, Dillon Tate and Gleybar Torres. (Also, Tim Tebow) It says something that the Yankees were confident enough to send Kaprielian, with essentially zero professional experience, to such an advanced pitcher-eating league.
The better news: he's healthy and throwing in the mid-90s again. The elbow injury appears to be healed. He has 12 strikeouts and 2 walks in 9 1/3 innings. If you watch the above video, you'll hear scouts whispering about how good he looks. I'm no mechanics expert, but his delivery looks beautifully simple.
If Kaprielian is indeed healthy, he instantly changes the farm system outlook. If he is indeed throwing in the mid-to-high-90s, he has top-of-the-rotation potential. The Yankees have badly needed to rebuild their minor league pitching pipeline in recent years. There are a lot of flaws in the current crop of young Yankee pitchers: Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Chad Greene, Luis Cessa, Dillon Tate, Justus Sheffield, Dietrich Enns, Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, Domingo Acevedo. A healthy Kaprielian is better than any of them, and could hit the majors in late 2017 if everything goes right.
The big challenge will be bringing his innings up. I can't imagine they will want to pitch him more than ~130 innings next season. That means a potential 2018 rookie season will still take place under a harsh innings cap.