The future has officially arrived, Houston Astros fans.
According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's MLB draft, Mark Appel, has reached a contract agreement with the Astros.
Since the Astros were armed with the biggest pool of draft money available to pay their picks, there was little doubt that Appel would eventually don a Houston uniform, but the quick nature of the agreement is a win-win for both the player and team.
As the rules within the framework of contracts and negotiations with draft selections have changed over the years, so has the leverage of certain picks.
At first glance, Appel, a Stanford senior without any college eligibility remaining, seemed to have far less leverage than he did a year ago when selected in the top 10 of the draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. After failing to reach an agreement on a contract, Appel spurned Pittsburgh to remain at Stanford.
As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs pointed out in the aftermath of the Appel selection, the right-handed pitcher did come into this round of negotiations specifically with a very, very far-off deadline by which a contract had to be agreed upon.
While he couldn't dangle the specter of going back to Stanford on the Astros' ownership and upper management group, he could have basically held the rest of their draft class hostage by delaying a contract agreement.
For both parties, player and team, it's a boon for the short- and long-term future of the organization.
In Appel, Houston secures the services and development of a pitcher who could one day anchor its staff. By removing his allotment from the pick pool they have been given this year, the franchise can focus on signing as many of its other draft picks as possible before the new, quicker deadline this summer.
The business judgment—or, in other words, gamble—Appel placed upon himself worked out in a big way. By producing startling numbers in his senior year at Stanford (106.1 IP, 2.12 ERA, 130 K, 23 BB), he vaulted himself from a promising, eighth overall selection last summer to the top pick in the world this time around.
For a rebuilding team like the Astros, his availability and arrival give instant credence to the plan being put into place.
"I think the future is very exciting for Houston," —
Despite Appel's large workload at Stanford, the Astros will likely be cautious with him this summer, resisting the urge to rush him to the majors on a 100-plus-loss club. But his presence could be felt as soon as 2014.
According to Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum, placing Appel on a list of candidates for the 2014 Rookie of the Year award isn't far-fetched. In fact, it's likely he'll compete for a spot in the rotation as early as next spring training.
If current staff ace Bud Norris is traded this summer, it would open up another spot without an entrenched veteran in the rotation for Appel to beat out.
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