Mark Appel (Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)
The Houston Astros announced former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel will be among the prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League this year. He is ranked as the organization’s No. 2 overall prospect behind Carlos Correa, but the right-handed pitcher struggled at Class A Lancaster before the Astros (controversially) decided to move him to Double-A Corpus Christi about a month ago.
Since joining the Hooks, Appel has looked a lot better but continues to struggle some. In five starts, he is 0-2 with a 4.10 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 24 strikeouts, and nine walks (26.1 innings pitched.) Appel, who missed all of Spring Training and the early part of 2014 while recovering from an appendectomy, is joined by outfielder Andrew Aplin, catcher Tyler Heineman, left-handed pitcher Mitch Lambson, right-handed pitcher Tyson Perez, third baseman Rio Ruiz, third baseman Joe Sclafani, and right-handed pitcher Vincent Velasquez on the Salt River Rafters roster.
"Here’s the Salt River Rafters complete roster. (Note: Sclafani is a member of the taxi squad, which means he’s activated on only Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Rafters, who will play home games at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, included prospects from the Astros, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Rockies and Twins. The six-team league plays Monday through Friday beginning Oct. 7.)"
Appel isn’t the only one of the Astros top prospects playing in the AFL. Vincent Velasquez, who is ranked as the organization’s eighth best prospect, is 7-2 with a 2.29 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 65 strikeouts, and 19 walks in eight starts (51 innings) for the Lancaster JetHawks at Class A (Adv). The 22-year-old was taken by the Astros in the 2nd round of the 2010 MLB Draft and will help give the Rafters one of the best rotations in the AFL.
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Rio Ruiz is ranked as the ninth best Astros prospect and has done a terrific job for the JetHawks as well this season. He is hitting .297/.389/.444 with 11 home runs, 73 RBIs, 84 strikeouts, 77 walks, and 35 doubles in 125 games. The 20-year-old was drafted in the 4th round of the 2012 MLB Draft and considered by many to be the future of the Astros at third base. I broke down that situation earlier in the week.
The only disappointing (but expected) news was that Carlos Correa hasn’t healed enough from his broken fibula to be ready to play. The Astros top prospect, and No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft, was hitting .325/.416/.510 with six home runs, 57 RBIs, 16 doubles, six triples, 45 strikeouts, and 36 walks in 62 games for Lancaster. He nearly got called up to Class AA Corpus Christi before his injury, but now the 19-year-old has been out since late June.
One other note from the minors: