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Mark Appel selected No. 1 overall by Houston Astros in the MLB Draft

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(AP)


Mark Appel is going home to Houston. Appel, the much-lauded Stanford right-hander, had his name called Thursday night in New Jersey as the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Houston Astros in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Appel, 21, is a Houston native who stands 6-foot-5 and had a brilliant career in Palo Alto. He was 10-4 in his senior season at Stanford with a 2.12 ERA. He struck out 130 batters in 106.1 innings and walked only 23. Opposing batters hit .203 against him. He was just as good, if not better, in his junior year — winning the national pitcher of the year award. Appel was drafted No. 8 overall in the 2012 draft, but turned down a $3.8 million contract from the Pittsburgh Pirates, instead opting to return to Stanford.

Appel told MLB Network afterward:

"This has been such a surreal moment for me and my family. Just knowing I'm going back home, it's really an honor."

Unlike some previous years of the MLB Draft, when guys such as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg were consensus No. 1 picks, there was plenty of speculation until draft time about which direction the Astros would go. Appel and Jonathan Gray (from University of Oklahoma) were both strong collegiate pitching prospects. Kris Bryant (University of San Diego) was appealing because of his potent bat. High-schoolers Clint Frazier and Kohl Stewart were in the conversation because of their youth and potential.

Ultimately, the Astros went with Appel, who they could have picked No. 1 overall a year ago, but skipped in favor of shortshop Carlos Correa. Here's some of the Baseball America scouting report on Appel:

As a senior, he fine-tuned his stuff and graduated with a degree in management science and engineering. He shows everything scouts look for in a frontline pitcher. He's 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds with a clean delivery, and he is a solid athlete who played basketball in high school. Appel's fastball sits in the mid-90s and gets as high as 98 mph, and he holds his velocity deep into games ... Appel has improved every year at Stanford and dominated as a senior, and he should move quickly through the minor leagues.

The Astros, who are famously futile this season, have added another strong piece to a farm system they're hoping brings them future success. Their cost-efficient rebuilding process hasn't proven effective in the win column yet (they're 22-39 and last in the AL West, despite a recent 7-3 run), but many in baseball agree the team is on the right track. They were named the fourth best farm system recently by ESPN's Keith Law.

The next question is how much Appel will get paid. He turned down $3.8 million last year, which still makes Pirates fans bitter. But Astros wouldn't have made him the No. 1 pick if they didn't think it possible to sign him. Their No. 1 draft choice as a slot value of $7,790,400, but Appel's payout could be higher than that depending on what they do with their other draft picks. Appel, it's worth mentioning, is repped by Scott Boras.

HERE'S THE REST OF THE MLB DRAFT TOP FIVE:

2. Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant: 3B/OF, University of San Diego

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(AP)

Scouting report from Baseball America:

Bryant has shown huge raw power since his high school days in Las Vegas, and has blossomed into college baseball's premier slugger. He posted a 1.081 OPS and nine homers as a freshmen, then a 1.154 OPS and 14 long balls as a sophomore, but he has taken his game to new heights as a junior, posting a 1.357 OPS and 25 home runs (seven more than any other Division I player) through 49 games. Opponents have pitched him very carefully, but he has remained patient, posting a 56-31 walk-strikeout mark. Bryant's best tool is his plus-plus righthanded power, allowing him to launch towering shots over the light standard in left field or hit balls over the fence to the opposite field.

3. Colorado Rockies: Jonathan Gray, RHP, University of Oklahoma

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(AP)

Scouting report from Baseball America:

Gray's metamorphosis from a live-armed but chubby high schooler to a potential No. 1 overall choice is reminiscent of Stephen Strasburg's. Gray has firmed up his frame to a solid 6-foot-4 and 239 pounds, and he has his delivery and his pitches more under control than ever. He has maintained a high level of performance all spring, carrying an 8-1, 1.20 record with a 104-16 K-BB ratio and a .166 opponent average through his first 12 starts. If the Astros pass on Gray with the No. 1 selection, it will be an upset if he gets past the Cubs at No. 2.

4. Minnesota Twins: Kohl Stewart, St. Pius X HS (Houston)

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(Photo By Larry Goren / Special to Yahoo! Sports)

Scouting report from Baseball America:

Scouts love the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder's arsenal, athleticism and competitiveness. They say that he has better present stuff than Jameson Taillon did when the Pirates took the suburban Houston righthander No. 2 overall in 2010. Stewart has boosted his fastball from 88-93 mph last summer to 91-96 for much of the spring, though his velocity tails off at times in the later innings. His life and command with his heater make it even more dominating, but his best offering is a power mid-80s slider with tilt. He has improved his curveball and shows feel for his changeup, and he'll display four above-average big league pitches at times. He has a clean delivery and should get even better once he concentrates solely on baseball.

5. Cleveland Indians: Clint Fraizer, OF, Loganville (Ga.) HS

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(Photo By Alyson Boyer Rode / Special to Yahoo! Sports)

Scouting report from Baseball America:

Frazier brings premium bat speed, solid athleticism and an all-out style, making him a strong contender to be the first high school player drafted this year. However, scouts do not put him in the same class as last year's top prospect, fellow Georgia prep outfielder Byron Buxton (now with the Twins). While he's modestly sized, Frazier has fast-twitch athleticism and strength in his hands, wrists and forearms. He generates tremendous bat speed and plus-plus raw power that should play at any level. He hits ‘em far and hits homers with regularity. While Frazier has a compact swing, scouts expect him to swing and miss a decent amount with his aggressive approach and modest feel for hitting.

The draft starts up again at 1 p.m. ET Friday for rounds 3-10 and at 1 p.m. ET Saturday for rounds 11-40. You can listen along at MLB.com both days.

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