Mark Appel is going home to Houston. Appel, the much-lauded Stanford right-hander, had his name called Thursday night in New York City 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 first two rounds of the draft are televised Thursday on MLB Network and streamed onMLB.com. 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.