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Yankees may have some young aces up their sleeves

Yankees prospect James Kaprielian talks to the media

Yankees prospect James Kaprielian talks to the media during an event at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

It’s become a proven blueprint for winning in baseball today. Talented young pitchers start to contribute at the big-league level and an organization’s fortunes turn as it becomes a contender.

It happened to the Mets. It happened to the Indians. Now perhaps it could be starting to happen for the Yankees.

With the starting rotation perhaps their biggest question mark right now, only Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia appear locks for the rotation. There are a handful of options for the last two spots and James Kaprielian and Chance Adams — a pair of 2015 draft picks — could end up the solution at some point in 2017, maybe even to start the season.

Adams was asked about them being a part of the future rotation and replied “I think we both have that capability.”

At the Yankees’ Winter Warm-Up Town Hall Meeting Tuesday night in midtown, general manager Brian Cashman described operating under the new collective bargaining agreement, with its escalating penalties for crossing the luxury tax threshold, as dealing “with a salary cap.” So filling the 25-man roster with their minor-league stars could make all kinds of things possible for the Yankees as they eye the impressive 2018 free-agent class that could include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw and Josh Donaldson.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to be in a position to do a number of things and maybe turn the clock back and be big- game hunters that we, and you, are accustomed to being,” Cashman told a crowd of 300 at the Hard Rock Café.

The righthanded Kaprielian went No. 16 out of UCLA in the 2015 draft and was projected to reach the majors in a short time before a flexor tendon strain cost him almost all of 2016. He made it back to pitch well in three minor-league games and regularly hit 97 mph on radar guns in the Arizona Fall League.

“I am 100 percent. I am feeling good,” Kaprielian said. “I’m feeling strong and ready to go into the season . . . without limitations. Ready to go.”

Adams, also a high-velocity righthander, was the Yankees’ fifth-round selection out of Dallas Baptist and sparkled in the minors during 2016 after being converted from reliever to starter. After going 5-0 with a 2.67 ERA for Class A Tampa, he was 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA with Double-A Trenton.

“I learned how to pitch, which is better than just going out there and throwing,” Adams said. “I kind of learned how to pitch and did my research on hitters . . . I worked on a changeup a lot last year. I had one, but I worked to improve it, so that was probably the most improved pitch.”

Kaprielian and Adams also have the mental outlook that New Yorkers became familiar with watching the Mets’ transformative pitching stars come into their own.

“I want to be the guy. I want to be the ace,” Kaprielian said. “There’s a lot of guys in our organization who are like that and I think it’s going to better us . . . If we get enough of us pushing each other to be that guy, we’re going to be pretty good.”

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