Part of the joy of having a top prospect to watch their performance through the minor leagues, seeing as they progress from being a distant hope for a better future to joining the major league roster. Mark Appel, the Astros first overall pick in 2013, definitely fits into that description. As it turns out, the wait to see Appel in an Astros uniform may be shorter than expected.
According to Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, Appel could be in Houston as early as this upcoming year. While he is not expected to make the starting rotation on Opening Day, that does not mean that Appel could not come up in the middle of the season, or as a September call up. Should the back end of the Astros rotation struggle as it did last year, Appel could find himself called up to the majors sooner rather than later.
A look at Mark Appel’s minor league numbers would suggest that the idea of him contributing in any meaningful way in 2015 may be far-fetched. After all, Appel did post a 3-7 record with a 6.91 ERA and a 1.596 WHiP. Most of that damage came in the California League, where Appel was 2-5 with a 9.74 ERA and a 1.917 WHiP, giving up nine home runs in 44.1 innings. These numbers are not exactly an encouraging sign for a top prospect.
That Balls Outta Here
However, it appears as though Appel was the victim of some insanely bad luck. Overall, Appel’s Fielding Independent Pitching indicates that he should have had an ERA of 3.98, nearly three full runs lower than his actual ERA. That actual ERA was dramatically inflated by a .367 BABiP overall for 2014, and a .414 BABiP at Lancaster. While Appel gave up a slightly higher percentage of line drives than average least year, with 19.4% of plate appearances ending in line drives, he also had 45.3% of his plate appearances end in ground balls. Even a league average defense could have made a major difference in his numbers.
Mark Appel may not be ready for a major league role yet, but his underlying numbers certainly indicate that he would be closer than one would expect. Should those statistics next season come closer to what his expected numbers would be, it certainly would not be a surprise to see Appel make his Astros debut, perhaps by the middle of the year.