Mark Appel Rumors

West Notes: Garza, Ortiz, Appel, Capuano

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that back at the Winter Meetings, the Angels offered Matt Garza a four-year contract similar to the deal he eventually he inked with the Brewers last week. However, owner Arte Moreno typically wants a quick response to free agent offers, so the Angels didn't leave the offer on the table for long (Twitter links). The Halos have added Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs this offseason and inked a returning Mark Mulder to a minor league deal. Here's more from the West divisions.

  • Rangers southpaw Joe Ortiz will miss three months of the season after he was hit by a motorcycle in Venezuela, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Ortiz, who was a pedestrian at the time of the frightening accident, has a broken bone in his left foot.
  • The Astros announced that top prospect and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel has had an emergency appendectomy. General manager Jeff Luhnow said in a press release that Appel isn't expected to miss much time: "He will report to camp on time. Once he arrives in Spring Training, we’ll see where he is at health-wise and take it from there. We anticipate that he will either be ready to work out at the start of camp or very close to ready." The Astros also announced that waiver claim Raul Valdes will be out four to six weeks after undergoing knee surgery.
  • Former Dodgers starter Chris Capuano figures to be a bargain this offseason, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan writes. ESPN's Buster Olney recently noted (on Twitter) that Capuano is now only asking for a one-year contract. Sullivan suggests that could make him a better buy than someone like Bronson Arroyo, even though Arroyo is perceived as being more durable. In October, the Dodgers paid Capuano a $1MM buyout rather than picking up an $8MM option, suggesting that they did not believe he was worth $7MM to them. The Steamer projection system, however, projects that Capuano will be approximately as valuable as Arroyo, Tim Hudson or Phil Hughes.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.


AL West Notes: Athletics, Rangers, Astros

After a look at the AL East earlier this morning, let's turn our attention out west …

  • While the Athletics are looking to buttress their 4-game division lead by buying at the deadline, John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports that the club is finding supply to be limited. "Right now there are more buyers than there are sellers, more buyers than last year," says GM Billy Beane. Second base and starting pitching are the needs atop Oakland's wish list, team sources tell Hickey. In spite of the rotation's solid performance to date, Hickey says a trade could allow the team to utilize Brett Anderson in a bullpen role when he returns from injury. Citing Beane's apparent willingness to take on some relatively significant salary obligations, Hickey lists Jake Peavy (White Sox), Edinson Volquez (Padres), Bud Norris (Astros), and Kyle Lohse (Brewers) as potential targets.
  • After adding starter Matt Garza, the Rangers are looking at dealing for an outfielder, writes CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. Currently, says Heyman, Alex Rios of the White Sox is the most likely candidate for Texas. Heyman further notes, however, that the club could look to wait out the market in the hopes that players like Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins, Michael Cuddyer of the Rockies, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays, or the Giants' Hunter Pence become available, with Pence being the most likely among those to change hands. Texas has also considered Chris Denorfia of the Padres, Marlon Byrd of the Mets, and Justin Ruggiano of the Marlins, though Heyman notes that those options would rank below Rios in terms of impact. 
  • The Astros' Mark Appel is the highest-rated player from the recent amateur draft on MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's updated Top 100 prospects list. As Mayo explains in his overview of the changes to the list, the top overall choice leads a group of eight recently-drafted players to crack the top 100. Houston is tied with the Red Sox with the most total players to make Mayo's list, with eight apiece. In terms of a simple weighting metric that Mayo calls "Prospect Points," the 'Stros have the most overall prospect value in baseball in high-end prospects, followed closely by the Twins. Though the Astros passed on top overall prospect Byron Buxton in last year's draft, its strategy enabled it to land the players currently checking in at number nine (Carlos Correa) and number sixty-five (Lance McCullers) instead.

Prospect Rumor Roundup: Early Draft Returns

The 2013 amateur draft is now fully in the rearview mirror and a new wave of talent has filtered into the professional ranks. Some of the '13 draftees have been riding the buses for more than a month now, while others have only recently pulled on their spikes. Below is a look at first round picks who are off to impressive starts with their new organizations. Standard warnings about reading too much into small sample sizes apply.

Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (1st overall): The top selection in the 2013 draft has made four starts in the minors and has already earned a promotion, moving from the New York Penn League to the Midwest League. Despite a bit of a layoff between the college season and his first pro appearance, the Stanford alum has displayed good control with just one walk in 13 innings while striking out 13 batters. Curt Rallo, writing for MiLB.com, recently caught up with Appel and spoke to him about the adjustments he's making as a professional baseball player.  

Kohl Stewart, RHP, Twins (4th): The highest drafted prep product, 18-year-old Kohl has acclimatized well to his new life as a pro ball player. Stewart, a Texas native, features a 1.80 ERA with nine strikeouts in 10 innings of work over four appearances (two starts). 

Clint Frazier, OF, Indians (5th): The 18-year-old Frazier is stinging the ball through his first 18 pro games. He's hitting more than .300 with nine extra base hits. On the down side, he's whiffed 24 times, including nine strikeouts in his last four games. Clearly, he has some further adjustments to make if he hopes to see continued success on the diamond.

Hunter Dozier, SS, Royals (8th): The Royals' first pick received a lot of attention for being an overdraft so the club could later afford pitcher Sean Manaea, who slipped out of first round consideration due to injury concerns. Dozier, though, is making the decision to pick him eighth overall look inspired. He has an .856 OPS and 20 of his 37 hits have gone for extra bases during his time in the Pioneer League. Dozier has also walked more than he's struck out (19-16). His first professional baseball club, the Idaho Falls Chukars, recently published an audio Q&A with the first rounder.

D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners (12th): Peterson was promoted from the Northwest League to the Midwest League on Tuesday and he will leave behind some impressive numbers. The third baseman popped six home runs and posted a .915 OPS in 29 games. He also showed solid contact skills with a strikeout rate of just under 15%, which is impressive given his power output.

Reese McGuire, C, Pirates (14th): The Pirates had two first round selections in 2013 and McGuire has gotten off to a quicker start than his new teammate Austin Meadows. The young catcher is hitting more than .400 with a 1.012 OPS through his first 15 games. He's also impressing behind the plate by catching 50% of base runners attempting to steal. John Lembo of the Bradenton Herald spoke to both McGuire and Meadows about their thoughts of growing up in the Pirates organization.

J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (16th): Philadelphia has been snakebitten over the past few years when it comes to their first round draft picks, and the organization is clearly hoping for bigger and better things from Crawford. He's off to a good start in Rookie ball where he's compiled 25 hits and seven walks in 18 games, good for a .427 on-base percentage. By getting on base at such a good clip, it should allow him to pile up some steals thanks to his above-average speed.

Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox (18th): Anderson is the third shortstop on this list who's off to a quick start to his career. Playing in low-A ball, he's getting on base at a solid clip (.371 OBP) while nabbing 12 bases in 15 attempts through the first 32 games of his pro career. One red flag, though, is his strikeout rate of 25%, especially given that power is not a big part of his game right now; an improvement in his contact rate would likely help him improve his on-base percentage even further. Anderson could move quickly through the Sox system, which could help to explain why the club may be willing to part with incumbent shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Michael Teague of MiLB.com spoke to the young prospect shortly after he was named the top junior college athlete in the country for 2013.

Jonathon Crawford, RHP, Tigers (20th): Crawford has opened his pro career in the New York Penn League and he's expected to be one of the first college-groomed draft picks to reach the Major League level. Through six appearances, he's looking good with a 2.03 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings of work. He was downright unhittable in three of those appearances (totaling six innings). Lynn Henning of the Detroit News spoke to Crawford's manager in Connecticut about the recent draft pick's positive start to his career.

Billy McKinney, OF, Athletics (24th): After batting just .242 with a .558 OPS in June, McKinney has heated up in July and currently has a .367 average and .861 OPS. The left-handed-hitting Texas native has improved his game in part by making more contact and lowering his strikeout rate. He's also holding his own against southpaws, which is impressive to see from such a young hitter.



Quick Hits: Lee, Papelbon, Kawasaki, White Sox, Appel

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports runs down the names to watch as the trade deadline approaches in the latest edition of his 10 Degrees column, and the list is topped by Cliff Lee and Chase Utley. Giancarlo Stanton, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Justin Morneau, Jesse Crain, Oliver Perez and Matt Garza also appear on the list, along with Passan's rationale for shopping each. Here's more from around the league…

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the price to acquire Lee from the Phillies would be "astronomical," and the same goes for Jonathan Papelbon. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Heyman, "I never say never," but those two would be very difficult to replace. Utley and Michael Young are much more likely trade candidates, opines Heyman, given their impending free agency.
  • The Blue Jays' decision on what to do with Munenori Kawasaki following Jose Reyes' return from the disabled list grows more difficult each day, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Kawasaki's popularity among fans and teammates has soared. Mark Buehrle went as far as calling the Japanese infielder one of his favorite teammates of all-time. Kawasaki also has a .341 OBP and is hitting .270/.372/.486 over his past 15 games.
  • Both Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy recognize that roster changes are on the horizon for the White Sox if they can't turn things around at the last minute, writes Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Dunn added that outside of Chris Sale — whom he said the White Sox would need to receive an entire MLB team to part with — everyone on the team is probably "fair game."
  • Mark Appel could make his pro debut for Class A Tri-City in the first week of July, according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. The current plan for Appel is for him to begin a throwing program in Kissimmee, Fla., as he currently hasn't thrown in about three weeks.

Astros Notes: Appel, Free Agency

The Astros today held a press conference to announce the signing of No. 1 overall draft pick Mark Appel. Here are some of the highlights as well as other Astros news (All links below point to Twitter)…

  • General manager Jeff Luhnow said at the press conference that negotiations with Appel's adviser, Scott Boras, were smooth because everyone that was involved had the same goal (MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reporting).
  • Luhnow also said that Appel does have an innings limit for 2013, but he didn't specify what it was. For now, Appel will head to Florida, and his first minor league stop will be short-season Class A Tri-City (McTaggart reporting).
  • Appel could also make his way to full-season Class A Quad Cities and even Double-A Corpus Christi this summer, Luhnow said. Luhnow feels that the Astros are closer to success, as an organization, than most people think. He views Appel as a major factor in taking the next step (Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle reporting).
  • In non-Appel-related news, Smith reports that the Astros are already targeting two- to three-year free agent deals this offseason to serve as a bridge to the next Houston contender.

Astros To Sign Mark Appel

WEDNESDAY, 12:19pm: The Astros will officially sign Appel this afternoon, according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter).  The club has put out a press release confirming the deal.

SATURDAY, 4:25pm: It appears that the Astros have accomplished what the Pirates could not last year.  Houston has agreed to terms with first overall pick Mark Appel on a deal worth $6.35MM.  That number falls below the suggested slot value for the No. 1 pick, which is $7.79MM, according to Baseball America.   Appel

Appel, who is advised by Scott Boras, was drafted last year by the Pirates at No. 8 but ultimately did not sign.  The right-hander arguably would have gone higher in the 2012 draft if it weren't for signability concerns.  It was reported that the Bucs offered the right-hander $3.8MM and from a money standpoint, Boras and Appel have come out on top.

Appel was ranked as the top prospect in the draft by ESPN's Keith Law and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.  Baseball America had him pegged as the second-best prospect in his class, behind Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray, who went No. 3 to the Rockies.

The Stanford product shows everything scouts look for in a frontline pitcher, according to BA.  Appel's fastball sits in the mid-90s and gets as high as 98 mph, and he holds his velocity deep into games.  The right-hander has improved in each year at Stanford and figures to move quickly through the minor leagues.

CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman first reported that an agreement was reached while Jim Callis of Baseball America tweeted the value of the deal.  Additional details were provided by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.  Zach Links contributed to this post.


Astros, Boras Meet To Discuss Appel Deal

Scott Boras, who represents No.1 pick Mark Appel, touched down in Houston today to talk with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow in an effort to wrap up negotiations.  Boras told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that no agreement has been reached, but his pow-wow with Luhnow likely indicates that a deal is close.

Jeff and I are going to talk about things tonight and we’ll see,” Boras said. “We’re certainly close enough for me to come here and talk, that’s for sure.

It was reported late last week that the Astros had reached an agreement in principle with Appel on a deal that would pay him $6.35MM, well below the suggested slot value of $7.79MM for the top selection. Appel was ranked as the top prospect in the draft by ESPN's Keith Law and MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.  Baseball America had him pegged as the second-best prospect in his class, behind Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray, who went No. 3 to the Rockies.


Quick Hits: Appel, Padres, Jimenez, 2014 Draft

Despite reports over the weekend that the Astros and first overall pick Mark Appel have already agreed to terms on a below-slot contract, GM Jeff Luhnow today told reporters (including MLB.com's Brian McTaggart and Chris Abshire) that nothing is official and he has yet to meet with Appel or advisor Scott Boras.  "We're trying to move it as fast as we can," Luhnow said. "We wanted to give [Appel] the weekend to enjoy his commencement. We're optimistic we can move it pretty quickly."  Luhnow said he hoped that Appel would be signed by as soon as this week.

Here's the latest from around the majors…

  • Virtually all of the players recently extended by the Padres have struggled, so Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune said the team might look for future extension candidates to prove themselves more fully before signing them to multiyear deals.  Center also discusses several other Padres topics as part of the online chat with fans. 
  • Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez, favored to receive the largest bonus of the coming international signing period, is profiled by Baseball America's Ben Badler.  Jimenez, a 16-year-old with a 6'4", 200-pound frame, was reported to be a major target for the Cubs by Badler last month, and Chicago is still in "heavy pursuit" of the prospect.  Two of the several scouts and international directors who comment in Badler's piece cite Jermaine Dye as a comparable for Jimenez.
  • With the 2013 amateur draft just barely in the books, ESPN.com's Christopher Crawford (Insider subscription required) looks ahead to the 2014 draft, which could be headlined by two NC State products. 
  • FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi looks at ten players who have helped their trade value in recent weeks.  Three of those players (Jesse Crain, Yovani Gallardo and Bud Norris) have recently had their trade stock examined as part of MLBTR's Trade Candidate series.
  • In the video link atop that previous post, Morosi cites the Blue Jays, Padres and Phillies as being "right on the fence" as to whether or not they'll be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.  If the three teams do decide to sell, plenty of arms will be available — Morosi lists Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Eric Stults, Jason Marquis, Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee as possible trade chips.
  • Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said he has no intention of releasing embattled reliever Carlos Marmol, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports.  Manager Dale Sveum said the same yesterday after Marmol allowed four ninth-inning runs in a 4-3 Cubs loss to the Mets.  Marmol has a 6.08 ERA in 26 2/3 IP this season.

Astros Nearing Deal With Mark Appel

The Astros are nearing a deal with No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Appel is advised by the Boras Corporation.

Passan reports that the deal could be signed as soon as next week, and Appel's bonus is expected to be about twice as much as the offer he turned down when the Pirates drafted him eighth overall in 2012. That would suggest that Appel will be signing for close to the full slot value of $7,790,400 reported by Baseball America in April; Appel's reported offer from the Pirates was $3.8MM.


Prospect Rumor Roundup: Astros First Rounders

If not for the hapless Miami Marlins, the Astros would be in line for the worst record in baseball for the third straight season. Clearly, it's been a rough stretch for the Houston fan base. The good news is that a strong group of reinforcements is on the way to The Show. The fans will have to take a leap of faith while the high-ceiling, minor-league talent rises to the surface.

The last two-plus years of mediocrity in Houston have allowed the organization to receive the first overall draft picks in both 2012 and 2013. An astute group of talent evaluators and baseball minds in the scouting department has helped to ensure the organization not only made the most of its first overall selections, but also made some clever trades for young talent while shedding players that did not figure into the rebuilding vision.

General Manager Jeff Luhnow has worked to ensure the club is pointed in the right direction as it moves to recapture some of the organization's past successes. But, truth be told, the club's front office and scouting department began to find its footing in 2010 — almost two years before Luhnow was hired away from the St. Louis Cardinals to replace ousted GM Ed Wade.

From 2000 to 2009 the Astros' drafting efforts bordered on brutal — especially when focusing on the club's first choice each season. Current Astros catcher Jason Castro (2008) stands out as the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary decade. It certainly didn't help that the club's free agent exploits cost the scouting department three first round selections (2003, 2004, 2007) and resulted in the selection of forgettable prospects such as Robert Stiehl, Derick Grigsby, and Max Sapp.

As mentioned above, the 2010 season began the major shift for the Astros and the past five first round draft picks are among the 10 best prospects in the system. Let's have a closer look at them:

2010 — Delino DeShields Jr., 2B, Georgia HS: Reds prospect Billy Hamilton received a ton of hype last year for breaking the century mark in steals, but DeShields also swiped more than 100 bags in a much quieter fashion. It's been a slower go for the 20-year-old Astros prospect in 2013 as he's managed just 15 steals in 24 attempts. He's holding his own at the plate with a .280 batting average but has yet to have a true breakout to solidify himself as one of the top prospects in the game.

2010 — Mike Foltynewicz, RHP, Illinois HS: Foltynewicz flew under the radar for a few seasons but the hype is starting to build — and it's easy to see why. The right-hander's velocity has crept up in the past year and he's been clocked as high as 98-100 mph in recent starts. Only 21, he opened the 2013 season in the offense-padding launching pad in Lancaster (High-A) and held his own before a promotion to Double-A in early May. Since that time, hitters have batted just .157 against him, and he has a 1.41 ERA in nine appearances. Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle recently took a look at Foltynewicz and highlighted both his talent and his drive to succeed. "Everybody knows what kind of power and strength he's got… But the encouraging part is since he's been here we're starting to get better down location, OK, and his breaking stuff and changeup (are) really coming along really nice… you won't find much better talent than he's got."

2011 — George Springer, CF, University of Connecticut: It took a couple of years but Springer has officially sprung. The young outfielder is tapping into his raw power on a more consistent basis (18 homers, .618 slugging percentage) while treading water with his contact rates. Springer still strikes out a lot (77 strikeouts in 61 games) but the tradeoff for the power output is worth it. He could be ready to patrol the outfield in Houston before the 2014 All-Star break. In another piece for the Chronicle, Smith featured Springer, and the prospect said he's not trying to put too much pressure on himself: "It's just kind of one of those things where I'm not too concerned about the results. I just try to go out and compete and play hard and develop as a player," Springer said. "It's one of those things where I was told to just let the results happen… For me, it's all about slowing myself down, having a lot of fun…"

2012 — Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico HS: One of the youngest hitters in A-ball at 18, Correa has started to heat up and has become more consistent while flashing the tools that caused him to go first overall in 2012. After hitting .221 in April, the young Puerto Rican's batting average is now up to .292, and he's walked 30 times in 50 games. Correa is still at least two years away from adding stability to the Astros' big league shortstop position but the wait could be well worth it. Brandon Simes of MiLB.com recently spoke to the young infielder and Correa gave his thoughts on what Mark Appel should look to do now that he's been drafted by the Astros. "Just focus on making the organization proud, keep working hard and try to get to the big leagues as fast as possible," Correa said. "I saw him getting called. I'm very excited to have him here with us in the organization. I'm looking forward to meeting him and being able to play together."

2013 — Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford University:  Appel is not property of the Astros just yet — and something could still go terribly wrong — but there is a very good chance that the college senior will eventually come to terms with his hometown club. After turning down the Pittsburgh Pirates as the eighth overall selection of the 2012 draft, the right-handed pitcher's gamble paid off as he has become an even better player, will earn a larger signing bonus, and appears ready to develop into one of the top pitching prospects in the game.

As the saying goes, things are always darkest before the dawn, and – if the minor league system is any indication – Houston fans are in for a bright future.