Mark Appel will make his professional debut Friday for the Houston Astros Class-A short-season affiliate the Tri-City ValleyCats, according to Ken Schott of The Daily Gazette.
Appel was the No. 1 overall pick of the Astros in the 2013 MLB draft and went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA in his senior season at Stanford.
He will start against the Lowell Spinners, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
So, what can we expect and what should we watch for in Appel's first start?
Not a Heavy Load
After having pitched 106.1 innings during the college season, don't expect Appel to be throwing any complete games any time soon.
At most, expect him to throw four or five innings in his first start as he gets used to professional hitting. More likely is three innings or once through the lineup.
Among those players Appel could face are two 2013 draft picks, outfielder Forrest Allday (eighth round) and shortstop Carlos Asuaje (11th).
The Astros don't want to overload Appel in his first start, especially considering the number of innings he's already pitched this year.
Things to Watch
If you're an Astros fan, the main thing you want to watch is how Appel reacts to his first bit of adversity. It may not come in the first start, but it will come eventually.
I'll also be curious to see what his velocity is like and if he's still averaging between 93-97 mph on his fastball.
Appel also hasn't taken the mound in a game since May 24, so it will be interesting to see if there is any sort of drop off.
His slider and changeup will be something to watch as well. How does he handle those pitches? How does he mix them in with his fastball, knowing he has to use them more in college?
Appel is going to give up at least a run or two as he adjusts to his new surroundings.
But he'll also get a few strikeouts and show flashes of brilliance.
He'll make another start or two for Tri-City and then move up to Class-A to end the season.
Other than that, don't expect too much out of Appel for the rest of the year, as he still has a long career ahead of him. The Astros don't need to rush things and can really get him going to start 2013.
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