On the heels of first-overall draft pick Dansby Swanson making his professional debut with the short-season Hillsboro Hops of the Northwest League, George King of the New York Post has learned that pitcher James Kaprielian, the sixteenth selection in this June’s draft by the New York Yankees, began his career on Wednesday with the Gulf Coast Yankees as part of their active roster. Kaprielian’s professional debut came in a relief appearance that day in a previously suspended game against the GCL Astros, pitching one-third of an inning, while surrendering four runs.
“James Kaprielian, the Yankees’ first-round (16th overall) pick in the June draft, will make his professional debut Wednesday for the Gulf Coast League Yankees.”
Kaprielian, the highest-drafted Yankees prospect since Matt Drews in 1993, signed with the club on July 15 for $2.65 million, as a client of Scott Boras. With the UCLA Briuns, Kaprielian posted three consecutive seasons with an earned run average of 2.29 or better. Converted to a starting pitcher entering his sophomore year, Kaprielian climbed steadily on the amateur draft boards, striking out over 100 hitters and walking just 33 across 106 innings in both his second and third years of eligibility.
Under new Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Gary Denbo, the Yankees have focused primarily on drafting proven college players with minimal risk, who are likely to advance quickly through the farm system and rapidly reach the Bronx. After years of taking sizable risks due to financial clout and power, the changing landscape of the amateur draft in the current Basic Agreement forced the Yankees to replace longtime minor league director Mark Newman and place complete trust in former organizational farmhand Eric Schmitt and Denbo to revamp a once-dormant farm system. The decision to place Kaprielian in the Gulf Coast Yankees was made by Denbo and the club expects the first-rounder to make his trek up the ladder in quick time.