Player: Mark Appel
Drafted by: Houston Astros (No. 1 Overall)
DOB: 7/15/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’5”/215 lbs
Previously Drafted: 2009, 15th round by Tigers; 2012, 1st round (8th overall) by Pirates
A 15th-round selection of the Detroit Tigers out of high school in 2009, Appel instead chose to honor his scholarship to Stanford. During his sophomore season in 2011, the right-hander emerged as the Cardinal Friday-night starter and pitched for Team USA later that summer. However, it wasn’t until the following year that his prospect stock took off. Since then, Appel has appeared on the Golden Spikes Award watch list in back-to-back seasons and collected countless individual accolades in the process.
Regarded as the top prospect in the 2012 draft class, Appel was the pre-draft favorite to be selected first overall. However, due to his lofty signing bonus demands as a Scott Boras client—as well as the draft spending restrictions imposed under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement—the right-hander ultimately fell to the Pirates with the eighth overall pick. And although the organization dug deep into its pockets to offer him a $3.8 million bonus, Appel ultimately decided to return to Stanford for his senior campaign with the hope of improving his draft stock.
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.
Physically stronger and in better shape than 2012; more durable; delivery still involves some effort, but easier and smoother this season; generates extension toward plate with long limbs and consistent release point over front side; utilization of strong lower half and core has resulted in cleaner mid-three-quarter arm action; allows him to create a consistent plane toward the plate; can almost be too smooth at times, which limits his natural deception; near-elite combination of size, athleticism and arm strength.
Registers consistently in the 93-97 mph range; comes out of his hand cleanly and can jump on opposing hitters; holds mid-90s velocity deep into his starts; lacks plus movement; tends to flatten out when elevated; flashes some sink and arm-side run when located down in the strike zone; needs more consistent extension to generate consistent life; control has always been sharp; command is average but plays up against college hitters; pitch should naturally improve in more competitive environment and against professional hitters.
Mid-three-quarter arm angle inhibits his ability to throw the pitch with consistent shape and pace; registers in 84-88 mph range; velocity of the pitch has aided his success in the college ranks; usually gets around the pitch when he needs to get on top; slurve-like spin gives the offering some glove-slide slice; too much sweeping action as he pushes it to the plate; offering will need to be cleaned up upon turning pro.
Vastly improved pitch in terms of its movement, effectiveness and usage; legitimate plus offering with chance for future plus-plus grade; thrown in the 83-85 mph range with fastball-like arm speed; demonstrates natural feel for turning it over; generates late sinking action with steep fade to the arm side; confidence throwing it in any count; true out-pitch at the next level; needs to create a more distinct speed differential relative to slider;
Distinct feel for three-pitch mix; always around the zone with each offering even when not at his best; confidently attacks both right- and left-handed hitters; understands how to induce weak contact and get outs; consistency allows him to work deep into starts.
Command has played up against college hitters but slowed his overall development, especially as a senior; still pitches backward too often; has been more aggressive this season; may still take a step back as he learns to actually attack hitters in the minor leagues; will need to execute pitches with more consistency; feel for slider lags well behind that of his fastball and changeup.
MLB Player Comparison: Mark Prior
Projection: No. 1 or 2 starter on a first-division team; frequent All-Star.
MLB ETA: 2015
Chances of Signing: 75%
Yes, Appel is a college senior. However, the fact that he’s represented by Scott Boras could make him a difficult sign if the money isn’t right. In previous seasons, Boras has advised clients to spend a year in an Independent League (e.g. Aaron Crow) so as to secure a more favorable signing bonus the following year. That said, because Appel is a safe bet to be selected at either 1-1 or 1-2 this time around, the right-hander will likely have his bonus demand met by the drafting organization.