Stanford ace right-hander Mark Appel is likely to be the first overall pick of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft for the Houston Astros next week. I scouted Appel at Sunken Diamond back in March when Stanford hosted USC.
I sat behind home plate and charted each of his 113 pitches using the stadium radar gun. Appel threw a complete game, allowing six hits, two walks, and two runs, while striking out seven. He induced eleven grounders, eight flyballs and six line drives.
Appel's fastball topped out at 96 Miles Per Hour (MPH), while sitting between 89-96 MPH and averaging close to 94 MPH. By my count, he threw 65 fastballs, 30 curveballs and 18 changeups. His curveball and changeup both sat in the 80-86 MPH range.
For a college pitcher with a fastball that was averaging over 93 MPH and hitting 95-96 through the 9th inning, I expected more swing-throughs. However, USC only swung and missed nine times by my count: four times against the fastball, twice against the curve and three times against the change. Three of the seven strike-outs were looking.
The curveball was more advanced and more consistent than the changeup. His changeup was ineffective for most of the game until the 7th inning when he found his feel with the pitch and missed a few bats with it. Before that, the pitch wasn't doing much, often bouncing in the dirt without enticing the hitter at all.
He threw strikes, but he didn't have great command with his fastball, throwing too many hittable strikes up in the zone, particularly in 0-2 counts when he should have been free to attack the corners.
A great example was in the 9th inning with Stanford leading 1-0. USC had runners on second and third with two outs when Appel threw an 0-2 fastball right down the middle, which led to a basehit up the middle for a go-ahead-two-run single.
Appel needs to improve his changeup to make it a more consistent weapon, particularly against lefties. He also needs to improve his fastball command within the strike zone.
The size (listed at 6-5, 215), velocity, curveball, and control are the positives that will likely make Appel the first pick of the draft next week, despite the weaknesses that were exposed in the start that I scouted. Appel has the tools to make good on his pedigree, but he is far from a finished product.