Oct. 14, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Mark Appel plays for the Salt River Rafters during an Arizona Fall League game against the Surprise Saguaros at Salt River Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Appel is ranked #2 in the Houston Astros farm system, according to MLB Pipeline, and #41 among all baseball prospects. There has been a lot of hype surrounding Appel throughout 2014, and while the numbers suggest that he struggled in Class A Advanced with Lancaster (2-5 record with a 9.74 ERA), the 23-year old righty has shown promise since leaving the hitter-friendly California League. In seven games (six starts) with Corpus Christy, Appel went 1-2 with a respectable 3.69 ERA in 39 innings. The inning total was just 5 1/3 shy of his total with Lancaster, yet his numbers improved almost entirely across the board.
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The number that jumps out is that Appel allowed thirty-nine fewer hits in Double-A, with a very similar innings total. The 6’5″ righty throws a mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, and mixes in a changeup and a slider. In a start in late August, while with Corpus Christy, Appel threw eight scoreless innings while allowing just two hits and one walk to the Frisco RoughRiders. It was these same RoughRiders who came within one game of winning the Texas League Championship just a week and a half later.
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To get Appel some extra work, he has been pitching in the Arizona Fall League, to the tune of a 1-0 record and an ERA of 3.43. In his first three starts with the Salt River Rafters, Appel gave up a total of four hits, and no runs in twelve innings. He also struck out eight while walking three, keeping his K/BB ratio (2.67) close to what it was in Corpus Christy (2.92).
The last two starts for Appel have not gone nearly as well. In fact, they’re the reason he has an ERA in the Fall League. In total, the righty has given up ten hits, eight earned runs, and four walks in nine innings pitched.
Want to see Mark Appel pitch for yourself? Well, on Thursday evening, MLB Network will carry the Mesa Solar Sox vs. Salt River Rafters game live at 7:30 PM, and Appel will be the starter for Salt River. The Solar Sox have players from the affiliates of the Oakland Athletics. It was the Athletics’ affiliate, the Stockton Ports that Appel pitched well enough (6 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 7 K’s) against to earn his promotion to Double-A.
With Appel struggling in his last two outings, facing familiar foes in Daniel Robertson, Matt Olson and Boog Powell may be what the righty needs to get back on track, although Robertson and Olson collected doubles off of Appel in the start that vaulted him the Corpus Christy.
Tidbits to look out for in Thursday’s game: Appel has an ERA of 7.71 in the Fall League with runners on, and that number jumps to 16.62 when a runner gets into scoring position. Appel has also allowed three walks with RISP, in just 4 1/3 innings pitched. Lastly, Appel has an ERA of 5.54 in three home starts, compared to a 0.00 ERA on the road. Thursday’s game is at home, and will be a great opportunity to watch Mark Appel as he continues to develop.