One of the benefits for the Astros drafting Mark Appel with the 1st overall pick in 2013, was that he was thought to be major league ready soon because of his college experience. The Astros are hoping that Appel succeeds, especially after last year’s Brady Aiken signing that never happened.
The Astros may also have regrets for not drafting third-baseman Kris Bryant, who is rising quickly in the Cubs’ system. Bryant might make his debut with the revamped Cubs Opening Day. When will Appel make his MLB debut?
Early in the offseason during an interview, Jeff Luhnow was asked about when Carlos Correa was going to get to the majors. He meant to say that Correa would be here sooner than you think, but he said that he will be here sooner than we want. Was that really an accident, or did he let his strategy slip? By not rushing the prospects to the majors, they get longer control over the player.
Astro’s A-GM Stearns on Appel “He’s not that far away, whether it’s 1st or 2nd half of this year or beginning of 2016, he’ll let us know”
Now we know he has a window, but what are the odds of when he makes his debut in each piece of that window. I’ll explain my justification for the following percentages later.
1st Half of 2015 Season: 12% chance
2nd Half of 2015 Season: 50 % chance
Opening Day 2016 Season: 30% chance
later in 2016 season or never: 8% chance
ETA First Half of 2015
I gave this a 12% chance of happening because I think the Astros feel like he needs to experience Triple-A hitting first before he goes against major league hitters. He struggled with in high Single-A ball with Lancaster, before being promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi where he pitched more like what was expected. He also had a great experience if Fall Ball in Arizona. Plus, the Astros want to postpone the starting of his free agent clock, so they might wait till the second half of the season to do so.
The starting rotation still has a hole in it possibly, but if I had a vote, this is what the rotation should look like with Brad Peacock set to miss start of the season.
If there is a minor injury to one of the starting pitchers, and a spot start is needed, I believe another pitcher will be given a chance before Appel. This is due to the fact that the Astros will bring him up when they feel he is ready, and then he will stay in rotation. If last year is any indication, Mark Appel might be a slow starter, so he may not succeed right away.
Going back and reading some of the reports after Appel was drafted, they mostly said that his ETA was 2014. Because he was coming out of college as a senior, he was major league ready. I think that his injuries and ineffectiveness set him back, but he can still make a difference at the major league level now. In this writer’s opinion, if the Astros want to contend in 2016, they need to break Appel in early in the 2015 season.
ETA Second Half of 2015:
This should become close to 50% chance of happening, especially if the Astros are in contention for a Wild Card slot. I feel that if Scott Feldman is healthy, he will be moved around the trade deadline either for an upgrade at third base or a prospect for the constant replenishing of the minor leagues.
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Also, there is a higher probability that one of the starters either being pulled from bad effort or suffered an injury to allow Appel to join the Astros rotation. This will also have extended his free agency clock by waiting until later in the year.
The main reason is that Mark Appel will probably be given an opportunity to join the rotation as a September call-up. As I said earlier, the sooner they call-up Appel, the quicker they accelerate into contending status. The “Lose Now” era is over, it’s time to win now and later. Mark Appel should become the true ace that the Astros have lacked since Roy Oswalt left.
ETA Opening Day 2016:
I have this being 30% chance of occurring. If this is the case, the Astros management would have suffered a season like 2013 when every Astros fan wanted George Springer to be called up. Instead they heard all season that Mark Appel is better than the pitchers we currently had and ponder when is Appel going to be called up.
My biggest suspicion that they will wait until 2016 to call up Appel because they would hold playing for the Astros in 2015 like a carrot on a stick to sign a long-term extension. This is what the Astros tried to do with Matt Dominguez, George Springer, and successfully with Jon Singleton. This way the Astros can gamble and offer the players a cheaper contract now because they might demand a larger salary later. Springer could have opened 2014 with the Astros if he signed the extension.
ETA Late 2016 or Never:
I give this an 8% chance of happening because he’s already shown that an injury can stall his progress. Could he suffer a setback in the 2015 season, which will delay his arrival?
Astros’ fans won’t want to hear this, but I have already wrote about how the Astros could have used Mark Appel to land Cole Hamels. Even though he had a rough start to his 2014 season with Lancaster, he pitched much better in Corpus Christi and the Arizona Fall League. His trade value may never be higher than it is now. He could come to Houston and be a flop.
Another possibility is he could have struggled and other pitchers passed him in the depth chart to grab a rotation spot. Some names to look out for are Josh Hader, Vincent Velasquez, or Michael Feliz.
In conclusion, I think that the best thing for the Astros would be that Appel makes his debut early in 2015 season, so he can learn how to pitch in the big leagues this year. But Astro management’s recent history suggests that they will wait as long as possible before the promotion, to make sure he is ready to compete at the big league level.
Whenever he gets promoted, it will be when he shows the Astros he is ready. Hopefully it is sooner, because the future is bright in Houston