This evening, UCLA baseball will likely produce a first-round draft pick for the first time in four years.
Right-handed pitcher James Kaprielian, the Bruins’ Friday ace for the past two seasons, is projected to go off the board early in the MLB draft, which starts today at 4 p.m. PT. As a junior, the 6-foot-4 prospect led the Pac-12 with 114 strikeouts, and combined with closer David Berg for the first no-hitter in UCLA history.
Teams had expressed interest in drafting Kaprielian (10-4, 2.03) in the first two rounds in 2012, but Kaprielian product was set on attending UCLA. He was eventually taken in the 40th round by the Seattle Mariners, and became a reliever on the Bruins’ 2013 national title team as a freshman.
UCLA coach John Savage said that Kaprielian was somewhat underrecruited coming out Beckman High in Irvine, calling him a “football guy” who slipped through the cracks. That he wasn’t a big factor on the travel circuit suppressed his stock too.
“There wasn’t as much hype around him,” Savage said. “But we knew that he potentially could be a weekend starter. We saw his projection and his upside. We knew that this guy could pretty special. …We knew what we had.”
Based on numerous mock drafts, Kaprielian appears to be a lock for the first round. He is projected to go No. 10 overall by Sports Illustrated, No. 12 by ESPN, and No. 16 by Baseball America and MLB.com.
The last time a UCLA player was drafted in the first round was 2011, when pitchers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer went first and third overall, respectively.