In a perfect world, Mark Appel should have been the number one pick in the draft last season. He certainly deserved to be. But thanks to Scott Boras and MLB’s new slotting system, the Astros drafted Carlos Correa last season and Appel fell to the Pirates at pick number eight.
Mark Appel (Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports)
Looking back on the 2012 draft a year later, it appears that things have worked out pretty well for the Astros. Correa looks like a legitimate prospect, and selecting the shortstop allowed Jeff Luhnow and company to stock up the minor league system with multiple high ceiling prospects. The money saved on Correa allowed the Astros to draft players such as Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz who fell in the draft due to their contract demands.
Other notable players the Astros drafted were Nolan Fontana, Brady Rodgers, and Preston Tucker among others. The first draft under Luhnow’s regime was much needed for the Astros organization. A restocking of the minor league system was needed. Last year’s draft along with all of the prospects added from the various trades restored the Astros’ minor league system with a lot of players that have bright futures.
Essentially everyone won, except Appel and the Pirates. The fact that the Astros have the number one pick for the second year in a row gives them the chance to get the best of both worlds.
Appel was the clear number one pick last season, but the Astros had to make a calculated decision to pass on him due to his contract demands. Last year Appel had the ability to pass on an offer and return to college for one more year. But this year, Appel’s leverage is reduced, and there is pressure on Appel and Boras to negotiate a fair and market value contract.
After not signing last season, Appel could have had a shaky senior season, but instead he proved exactly why he should be the number one pick. Appel had a 10-4 record with a 2.12 ERA while striking out 130 hitters in 106.1 innings. The Stanford righthander will throw in the mid 90’s consistently and his off speed pitches are major league ready.
If anything the extra year in college benefited Appel even though he should have been the number one pick last season. It seemed that he just learned how to pitch more this season and dominate opposing hitters. To me Appel shows the potential of a future ace.
While the other options, Jonathan Gray, Colin Moran, and Kris Bryant, are not necessarily bad options, I just do not think they are the best options. They have had good college careers and could very well project to be good major league players if not stars, but there are questions surrounding each one of them. To me there is more risk and a lower ceiling associated with any of those options specifically than Appel.
Of course the benefit to passing on Appel for the second straight year, is that the Astros could still very well get a pretty good core player with the first overall pick, but also a lot more. But, the question is, is that what the Astros need?
With the presumed savings by passing on Appel, the Astros can use that money to add more talent in the later rounds. However, I am not sure that is what the Astros need.
Over the past two years the Astros have added a lot of depth to their minor league system. And by saying depth, I mean lots of very good players that can be contributors in years to come. But, at this point the Astros need a sure thing. Appel is the closest thing possible to a sure thing.
The one thing missing from Houston’s farm system is a future ace. That is what Appel is. He is the only player in this draft that I think the Astros could legitimately regret passing on in five or ten years. So for that reason, they need to draft him.