The Astros’ decision to give up on the number one overall draft pick from 2013 could be a terrific blessing for the Phillies as righty hurler Mark Appel lands firmly among his new club’s top prospect rankings following this off-season’s trade that sent reliever Kenny Giles to Houston.
There is no question that there would be extremely high expectations of a guy selected number one in the MLB draft. As such, some critics have already grown impatient with Appel’s progress. Sporting a career 5.12 ERA in 2 1/2 professional seasons, the Stanford product will hope a change of scenery will assist with his efforts to show and prove that he is worthy of the high regard that made him the first player taken.
A tremendous college career in which he was honored as a multi-time All-American was topped off with a 4-0 record, three saves, a 0.90 ERA, a .203 batting average against and a 13.06 K/9 mark in nine games pitched in his senior season.
Following the 2013 draft, Appel made his minor league debut with Class A short-season Tri-City in the New York-Penn League. In two starts there, he struck out six and walked none, allowing two earned runs in five innings pitched. He was soon promoted to Class A Quad Cities and performed very well. In eight starts, Appel notched a 3-1 record with a 3.82 ERA along with a .236 batting average against.
The following season, his first full year as a pro, Appel opened the season the Class A Advanced Lancaster, where he posted weak numbers. In 12 starts, he would sport a 2-5 record with a 9.74 ERA and a .372 batting average against. Despite the rough stat line, the Astros promoted Appel to Double-A Corpus Christi by the end of July. He would collect a 1-2 record with a 3.69 and a .236 BAA in seven games there.
Appel returned to Corpus Christi to open his 2015 campaign. In 13 games, the six-foot-five 220-pounder would post a 5-1 record with a 4.26 ERA while striking out 49 and walking 23 in 63 1/3 innings in 13 starts. By mid-season, he was promoted to Triple-A Fresno. With the Grizzlies, he had a 5-2 record with a 4.48 ERA while striking out 61 and walking 28 in 68 1/3 innings through 12 starts.
Additionally, last year he represented the Astros at the MLB All-Star Futures Game. He impressed with a blazing fastball clocking at 98 MPH for the first pitch he threw.
It has been stated that perhaps Appel lacks the edge it takes for a pitcher to succeed at the top levels of the sport. A self-proclaimed nice guy, the 24-year-old may need to alter his approach a bit and develop a bit of a more aggressive side.
Noting that his stuff is the same as it’s always been, the Phils are looking forward to having their own personnel work with Appel to guide his career to the level that has been expected of him. Working with the Phils’ veteran coaches along with guest spring training instructor and two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and former All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz when the team reports to Florida later this month will be a nice way to introduce the youngster to his new organization.
The pitch arsenal for Appel features a fastball that gets toward the upper 90’s with some regularity as well as two above average secondary offerings, a change up and a slider, both of which sit in the mid-80’s. His fastball velocity can tend to fade as he works deeper into games. Appel displays composure on the mound and the command is said to be good, but averaging about three walks per nine innings leaves room for improvement.
Appel was drafted out of high school by the Tigers in the 15th round in 2009, but attended college instead. He was also drafted 8th overall by the Pirates following his junior season, but chose not to sign. With Stanford, he was a two-sport athlete, also lettering in basketball.
Expect Appel to be a part of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley starting rotation when the 2016 gets rolling. If the Phillies can straighten him out, there’s no reason that he wouldn’t still have the potential to become a front line starter at the big league level.
Follow this year’s full prospect countdown by clicking this link.