Today is the day. The start of an era. Dawn of a new day.
I think we have enough cliches here, but you get the point. Something big will be happening today. No, it will not be in Houston. It won’t even be in a major league stadium.
Astros fans have actually been waiting for this moment for almost two years.
Friday night, Mark Appel will be taking the mound for the first time as a professional. And he will be doing it in Troy, New York for the Tri-City ValleyCats who are the short season affiliates of the Astros.
Now at this point, everyone is fully aware of Appel’s track record. He was the number one pick for a reason in this June’s draft. In his senior season at Stanford, the right hander went 10-4 and had a 2.12 ERA. He also left Stanford having struck out the most batters in school history, 372.
Appel had not pitched competitively since early May, so it took him a few weeks after signing his contract to work some of the rust off. Now that the Astros feel comfortable with his conditioning, the future ace is making his debut.
You must keep in mind that there is still a difference between college and the professionals, even if it is only A-ball. This is the first of many starts for Appel. I can’t imagine the Astros letting him pitch deep into the game, and that is perfectly alright.
Appel will not be spending a lot of time in Troy this year. The plan is to move the first round pick quickly through a few levels of the organization this year. Based on pure “stuff” and pitching ability, in a vacuum, Appel is probably major league ready.
However there is more to being a successful starter, than having natural talent and ability. The fact that Appel spent the full four years in college certainly does help. It might not be a smooth early transition to the professional ranks for the number one pick, but the progress will be quick and the potential will be apparent. Just fight the urge to overreact about the results, and look more at the process.
Tonight and every other start this year will generate a lot of excitement and it will be an event. It would not surprise me to see Appel come out dealing and just dominate his opponent, but at least for the first few starts, expectations should be tempered. Regardless though, Appel’s professional debut is exciting and Astros’ fans are allowed to be optimistic.