Houston Astros: Is Mark Appel ready to help?


On Saturday night, Mark Appel showed the shades of greatness that the Astros bought into when they selected him with the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Mark Appel tossed seven dominant innings, allowing only three hits (all to Wilin Rosario) and striking out ten without giving out a walk.

In three of his last four starts, Appel has gone at least six innings without allowing more than one earned run. Consistency has been the Achilles heel of Appel in the two years he has spent with the Houston Astros organization. Fans of the team have been impatient with his progress, but he has been able to work at his own pace this season because of the Astros’ success.

At the trade deadline, Appel’s name was thrown into many trade rumors and many Houston Astros fans were more than willing to part with the big righty. However, the deadline came and went, Appel was still in Fresno, and all he did was go out and pitch what was arguably his best start since joining the Houston Astros organization.

It was the kind of performance that may have punched his ticket to the big leagues in any of the past three years with the Astros. But the team is sitting comfortably in first place with a strong rotation that doesn’t need his services at the moment.

Appel and Gray

The Colorado Rockies, at 44-59 and 12.5 games back of the second wild-card spot, announced today that Jon Gray – the third overall pick of the 2013 MLB Draft – will make his MLB debut on Tuesday.

Gray is the pitcher Appel is most easily compared to because they both came out of college as polished pitchers with high floors. Gray spent the entire season at Triple-A Albuquerque, where in 20 starts he recorded 110 strikeouts over 114.1 innings and posted a 4.33 ERA and 1.49 WHIP.

Appel, however, has split time between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno, where in his 19 starts he has struck out only 77  over 95.2 innings, but has posted an identical 4.33 ERA and similar 1.42 WHIP.

Appel has big-league stuff but has shown that he needs adequate time to settle in at each level of baseball. At times, he does struggle with control (34 walks in 95+ innings this year) and gets hurt because of it.

Appel’s future with Astros

I boldly predicted before the second-half started that Mark Appel would pitch in a playoff game for Houston this season. I don’t necessarily see that happening, especially now that Vincent Velasquez seems poised to fill that role in October as the young flamethrower to come in and eat innings out of the bullpen.

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Still, if Appel continues to progress and throw the way he did on Saturday, he should find an opportunity to join the expanded roster and help the Astros down the stretch in September. Luhnow played his hand perfectly with Lance McCullers and Velasquez, knowing that those two young men were ready for the major leagues. But it’s apparent that Appel is moving at a different pace, which doesn’t necessarily mean he is a bust.

At the latest, Appel will be in the thick of the Astros rotation to begin the 2016 season. I can get behind a rotation that features the potential of the arms of Appel, McCullers, and Velasquez to add to the likes of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh.

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