For good reason the focus of Astros fans is now on the field. That is the way it should be. As I post this article, Justin Maxwell got the first hit of Spring Training for the Astros and promptly stole second base before being stranded by a Chris Carter strikeout. But there is more going on in Houston than just preparing for the 2013 season.
There is the looming 2013 draft to which the Astros hold the first overall pick. Last season there was much debate as to whether or not Mark Appel should have been the selection. Instead the Astros, correctly in my opinion, passed on Appel to select Carlos Correa. Thanks to Appel not agreeing to a deal with the Pirates and Houston holding the first round pick once again, Jeff Luhnow and company have another shot at the Stanford standout.
Last week Appel made his 2013 debut against Rice and did not look strong. In a sloppy outing he pitched 5 innings and gave up 5 runs, however only two of those runs were earned. Appel also struck out 3 and walked 3. Not a great outing, but not terrible either for his first start of the season. But nothing compared to how he followed that start last night.
The competition at home against Fresno State is not as good as on the road against Rice, but there is no disputing Appel’s performance. He went the distance giving up 1 run, allowing 5 baserunners, and striking out 11 batters in a 3-1 victory for Stanford. Now that is an ace quality performance that would fit perfectly into the Astros rotation with Lance McCullers Jr and Jarred Cosart in five years
But that does not mean we should get ahead of ourselves. We all know what Appel can do and the potential and talent he has. Since he does not have the fallback option of returning to school again he does give up some leverage in contract negotiations that he had last year, but signing him will be costly. A lot can happen between now and June and it surely is not the only option the Astros are considering, just the most well known. There will be a lot of talk in the coming months both about Appel and the other top options Luhnow will have. It’s just another thing for Astros fans to discuss and debate.