The Houston Astros weren't about to make the same mistake twice.
Last year, the team held the top pick in the 2012 MLB draft and passed over highly touted right-handed pitching prospect Mark Appel, opting to take shortstop Carlos Correa.
This time around, the Astros got Appel, after the team felt that the blue-chipper had improved enough to merit the top selection in what appears to be a prospect class deep in right-handed gems.
It was the right move.
A year ago, one could have made a reasonably compelling argument for Appel to be taken No. 1 overall, but there would always be an equally convincing counterargument preaching otherwise.
But nowadays, Appel is the top dog of this prospect pool, and though it was far from a foregone conclusion that the Astros would make him the franchise's ace of the future Thursday night, the Astros were sure of the decision after seeing how much the former Stanford star has developed in the last year.
According to USA Today's Matt Slovin, the difference between the Appel of a year ago and the one who struck out nine against UCLA in his final college outing was enough to convince them he was worthy of the top pick.
"We have a long history with Mark," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in an interview on MLB Network. "His pitches got better; his command got better. He proved to us that he's a guy that's not too far away from being in Houston."
Many experts believe the Astros decided between Appel and another pitcher, Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray.
Jonathan Gray was certainly worthy of the hype as well, as the Oklahoma product emerged as the co-favorite to be the first pitcher taken in the draft. In fact, many mock drafts had Gray going as the No. 1 overall pick, but Appel was the best choice for the Astros—and not just for his value on the field.
As a Houston native, Appel is a dream acquisition for the organization from a marketing standpoint, and though that shouldn't have been a major consideration for Luhnow and the Astros, it certainly doesn't hurt either.
Either way, Appel was the most polished and MLB-ready prospect in the draft, and with the Astros in the midst of a rebuild, he is the perfect pitcher to anoint as a franchise cornerstone for years to come.
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