Mark Appel dominates in first win with Corpus Christi Hooks


In the best start of his professional career, Houston Astros prospect Mark Appel finally showed why he was the number one overall pick in last year’s MLB Draft. The 23-year-old right-hander took a one-hitter into the ninth inning and recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts in his first win with the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks (a 1-0 victory over Frisco.)

"Appel’s line last night: 8.0 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, and 10 strikeouts. (88 pitches, 62 strikes)"

The former Stanford pitcher needed three pitches or fewer to record half of his 24 outs against Frisco. Besides a two-out single in the first and walk that was turned into a double play in the fifth, Appel kept the base paths clear for most of the night. When he got pulled in the ninth inning after surrendering a leadoff double, Appel seemed visibly frustrated with Hooks manager Keith Bodie. 

Mark Appel at Stanford (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

To be honest, I don’t really blame Appel for being a little angry. He had only thrown 88 pitches, so he probably felt he had a lot more left in the tank (especially after striking out the last man he faced in the 8th inning.) In the end, I think it would have been nice to see him finish the game out for the Hooks. More importantly, I believe it’s a good thing to see Appel get fired up like that. There were a few baseball scouts who criticized him for showing no emotion and having somewhat of a care-free attitude on the mound, so it’s definitely nice to see that isn’t entirely true.

It’s also very important to remember Frisco is one of the best hitting teams in the Texas League. They have three of the top 100 prospects in all of baseaball (Jorge Alfaro, Joey Gallo, and Nick Williams), but those guys were a combined 1-9 with four strikeouts against Appel. The right-hander was just too good as he located his fastball and threw it in the upper 90’s consistently throughout the night. Plus, Appel’s slider was pretty much un-hittable. I think it’s obvious Astros fans should feel encouraged since it was the first time Appel had gone more than six innings in his entire minor league career.

Appel is the Astros no. 2 overall prospect (behind Carlos Correa) and no. 44 ranked prospect in all of baseball. In six starts with the Hooks, he is now 1-2 with a 3.15 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 30 hits, 1 home run, 34 strikeouts, and 10 walks (34.1 innings pitched.) With him pitching this well, the Astros decided to name Appel among the prospects headed to the Arizona Fall League this year.

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Appel missed all of Spring Training and the early part of 2014 while recovering from an appendectomy. But even when he was healthy, the right-hander struggled with the Class A Lancaster JetHawks. In the California League, he was just 2-5 with a 9.74 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, 74 hits, 9 home runs, 40 strikeouts, and 11 walks in 12 starts (44.1 innings pitched.) Eventually (and controversially), the Astros decided to move Appel to Double-A Corpus Christi about one month ago.

Outside of Appel, it was a quiet night for the Hooks. A night after setting the franchise record for runs scored, the team only managed to score on third baseman Colin Moran’s two-out bloop RBI single in the eighth. Moran has been doing a terrific job for the Hooks and I wrote about whether he should get a chance to be the Astros third baseman next season. In the ninth inning, Hooks closer Tyson Perez issued a pair of walks but eventually picked up his 11th save to secure the victory.