Ever since the Astros drafted Mark Appel first overall in 2013, fans and scouts alike have had their eyes on the righty. Now at 23-years old, Appel has a chance of being included in Houston’s rotation at some point during the 2015 season. There will be a lot of factors at play in whether or not that promotion comes to fruition this season, but the only one that truly matters is if Appel pitches well in his time in the minors. Yes, it’s that simple. The Astros will make a spot for Mark Appel in the rotation if he is tearing it up in the minors.
While we don’t know where Appel will start the season, many believe that a trip to Triple-A Fresno would serve him well. The other option would be to have him start in Double-A for a month or two before giving him a look in Fresno. Either option could work, but if he struggles in Double-A, that could set back his timetable.
So what do the experts have to say about Mark Appel? According to Baseball Prospectus, Appel’s strengths include, “Fastball can play to double-plus, sitting 93 to 96 and touching 98 mph; occasional bore; at best, low- to mid-80s slider can be a weapon, with depth, bite and tilt; low- to mid-80s change plays with solid arm-speed deception and tumble; can mix and match arsenal; durable build; shows ability to create angles on pitches.”
They list his weaknesses as, “Slider and change can show inconsistencies across starts; control outdistances command at present; passive demeanor on mound can rub evaluators the wrong way; profile plays lower in the aggregate than sum of the grades; High-A bats had little trouble tracking and squaring offerings, even when executed.”
His weakness, in its simplest terms is his consistency on the mound. Some time in the minors will help fix that. In fact, that’s exactly what BP says in their scouting report “The stuff is near major-league ready, but he’ll have to wield it with more consistency and precision if he’s to navigate his way through upper-level lineups.” They also rank his fastball as a seven, while his changeup and slider rank at a six.
The ceiling on Appel is a number two or three starter, while his floor would be a third or fourth starter. Heck, after his struggles in Lancaster last season that’s not bad.
BP closes their assessment of Appel by saying, “He’s going to be a major-league starter, and possibly a quite good one, but probably not quite the same mold that scouts had envisioned prior to both of his first-round selections.” While that hurts a little, it’s not necessarily a surprise. Whether Appel winds up being a two, three, or four starter in the Astros rotation, he should be a solid addition to the club. With Dallas Keuchel, Scott Feldman and Collin McHugh signed for at least the next two seasons, Appel would be a depth addition that would improve the rotation.
While we have no timetable for when he’ll be in Houston, following Mark Appel’s starts in the minors should be an activity for Astros fans to partake in every fifth day.
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