The Houston Astros have the the first pick of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft on Monday. The only way that they will pass on Mark Appel is if they decide that taking a position player carries less risk than a pitcher.
After tonight, there is no doubt that Stanford's Mark Appel is the top pitcher in the draft, and quite possibly the best overall player.
I took a second look at Appel tonight in the college baseball regional tournament at Stanford. Appel was much better than the first time I saw him two months ago against USC.
Stanford beat Fresno State 9-1 behind Appel's complete game four-hitter. By my unofficial count, he walked only two, struck out 11, induced 10 ground balls, two pop-ups, four fly balls and just four line drives in nine innings of work on 120 pitches.
His fastball averaged 94 miles per hour (MPH) again according to my charting off of the stadium radar gun. It sat in the 93-96 MPH range, topping out at 97 MPH twice. His two-seam fastball showed good movement running towards his arm side.
His breaking ball and changeup were much more consistent and crisp this time out. The slider went anywhere from 82-89 MPH tonight, while the changeup sat between 80-87 MPH. He induced 16 swing-throughs tonight with his three-plus pitches.
The one issue he had was the third time through the Fresno State lineup when he left some balls up in the zone. The third time through the order he allowed three hits against just one strikeout.
Appel generates his velocity by severely loading up on his back leg, then driving towards the plate. This dropping and driving action sometimes causes his arm to come forward late, leading him to leave the ball up, rather than driving it down towards the bottom of the strike zone.
The Astros need to completely rebuild their organization from the farm system up towards the big league team. Drafting Appel will the first overall pick will give them a potential No. 1 starter who should move quickly through the minor leagues.
Appel has great velocity, a big frame, three swing-and-miss pitches and outstanding control of his repertoire. A player this good does not need much development time.
If the Astros want a potential ace that can enter their rotation quickly, then the decision was sealed tonight.