James Kaprielian was a former first-round pick by the New York Yankees and a top prospect who was traded to the Oakland Athletics in the Sonny Gray trade. Kaprielian’s first two big league seasons in 2021 and 2022 weren’t all that bad. But shoulder injuries held him back in 2023, and was eventually outrighted off the A’s 40-man roster.
In 253.1 innings between 2021 and 2022, Kaprielian owned a 4.16 ERA, 4.49 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP. These weren’t great numbers by any means, but they were about league average. His 20.5% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate were not awe-inspiring, though he did have a respectable 1.24 HR/9 rate for the Athletics.
Kaprielian’s 2023 season did not go as planned. He only pitched 61 innings, and struggled to a 6.34 ERA, 5.07 FIP, and 1.59 WHIP. Kaprielian’s strikeout rate remained constant at 20.5%, though his already unimpressive walk rate got worse, rising to 11.1%. Meanwhile, his home run rate also rose to 1.33. Kaprielian’s season was cut short due to shoulder injuries, and eventually underwent surgery in early August.
There were some warning signs that the right-hander had something wrong. After averaging out at 94 MPH on the dot in 2022, Kaprielian’s four-seam fastball dropped 1.5 MPH to just 92.5 MPH. Of course, struggling to locate, and overall pitching poorly were also indicators that something had gone sour.
On a non-guaranteed deal, it would totally be worth stashing Kaprielian at Triple-A. This isn’t to say that he’ll break into the Pirates’ starting rotation, but it’s not like Kaprielian has never had major league success. Someone has to fill the roster spots in the minor leagues, and they can't all be occupied with top prospects.