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Mark Appel Rumors
Mark Appel may have thrown his last pitch at the Double-A level, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports that the 2013 No. 1 overall pick is likely to be promoted to Triple-A following a strong Double-A showing on Sunday. Appel’s overall numbers aren’t great due to a pair of ugly starts in May, but as Drellich points out, the Stanford product has worked to a 2.17 ERA with a 24-to-8 K/BB ratio in 29 innings over his past five starts. Appel’s production at Triple-A will be worth monitoring, as Drellich also adds that the Astros want to assess their internal starting pitching options before exploring a trade for an upgrade.
Here’s more on Appel and some other top prospects filtering up toward the big leagues …
- Appel spoke with MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart about his desire to join close friends and former Double-A teammates Lance McCullers, Vincent Velasquez and Carlos Correa in the Majors. He tells McTaggart that the key to his turnaround has been establishing his fastball earlier in counts in order to get ahead of hitters — something on which he has worked repeatedly with pitching coach Doug Brocail.
- The Yankees have announced that slugger Aaron Judge will move up to Triple-A Scranton, as Jack Curry of the YES Network was first to report on Twitter. The massive outfielder cracked top-100 lists to start the year, and has performed well thus far in his first run at Double-A, slashing .284/.350/.516 with 12 home runs in 280 plate appearances.
- Red Sox outfielder Manuel Margot has received a bump up to Double-A, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe tweets. The 20-year-old has slashed .282/.321/.420 and added twenty steals over his 198 turns at bat at the High-A level this year. Baseball America rated him the organization’s seventh-best prospect entering the year, crediting Margot with the potential to develop into a true five-tool performer who can play center field. We heard some chatter this spring that the Phillies were eyeing the interesting prospect as a possible piece in a Cole Hamels deal.
- We saw a fascinating deal last weekend involving the effective sale of young righty Touki Toussaint from the Diamondbacks to the Braves. Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron discusses the deal in terms of prospect valuation. He reckons that Toussaint is probably worth about $20MM based on consensus prospect evaluations. While Arizona’s internal assessment may well have been lower, as Cameron notes, it still seems puzzling that the team cut bait given the organization’s current standing.
- Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa weighed in on the Toussaint deal, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. La Russa says the move was all about opening budgetary space to improve the big league roster in the relatively near future. “The ability to to have some payroll flexibility is critical to adding a couple of pieces,” said La Russa. “I don’t think we’re going to need a lot of pieces because we’re going to develop with this core. But if you can make the right move or two with somebody, that brings a lot to the table. Payroll flexibility is important.” Toussaint was a ways off from contributing at the big league level, said the club’s top baseball decisionmaker, while the D’Backs “think [their future] is sooner rather than later.” All said, La Russa indicated that the club simply preferred to move the salary of Bronson Arroyo to holding onto the lottery ticket of a young arm. “We’re not pushing a five-year plan, which is what Touki is,” he said. “Does that mean, just in retrospect, since I was there, should I have told (former scouting director Ray Montgomery), ‘Ray, don’t draft a Touki?’ Maybe I should have, but that was my first draft.” The 19-year-old (as of two days ago) Toussaint, of course, was the first name that Arizona called in last year’s amateur draft. Notably, as Piecoro has observed, this year’s selections were heavy on collegiate players.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports’ latest column contains notes on every team throughout baseball. Here are a few highlights.
- The Twins are surprise contenders this year, and they’re open to acquiring a middle-of-the-order hitter, possibly an outfielder, Heyman writes. They could also seek relief help.
- After trading for Mark Trumbo, the Mariners seem to lack budget flexibility, which might be the reason they weren’t a serious contender for Rafael Soriano despite Fernando Rodney‘s poor performance this season.
- The Astros are expected to sign No. 37 overall pick Daz Cameron for about $4MM, Heyman notes. Cameron, who is committed to Florida State, fell in the draft due to signability concerns.
- The Marlins are close to signing first baseman Josh Naylor, the No. 12 overall pick in the draft.
- The Dodgers might have a tough time signing No. 35 overall pick Kyle Funkhouser. The righty could head back to Louisville for his senior season, much as Mark Appel spurned the Pirates a few years back so he could complete his degree at Stanford and re-enter the draft the following year.
- Free agent and former White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo has received offers for minor-league deals, but he’s holding out for a big-league contract, Heyman reports.
- MLB might think about moving the draft from Secaucus, New Jersey to a different location, perhaps Omaha. That would allow more top prospects to attend.
Right-hander Brett Myers, who spent parts of 12 Major League seasons with the Phillies, Astros, White Sox and Indians, said in an interview with Section215.com that he’s enjoying retired life and believes that his playing days are likely over. Myers explained that over the final few years of his playing career, he missed spending time with his children, but he now is enjoying coaching his 10-year-old son’s baseball team. In his career, the former 12th overall pick posted a 4.25 ERA a 97-96 record, 40 saves, 7.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 1710 big league innings spent as both a starter and a closer. His playing days were also marred by off-field issues, including charges of domestic violence that were eventually dropped at his wife’s request, and an expletive-laced tirade aimed at a Phillies beat reporter whom he ultimately threatened with physical violence.
Some more notes from around the league…
- Though Chris Iannetta has struggled tremendously with the bat in 2015, the Angels don’t consider Jarrod Saltalamacchia a fit, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The 30-year-old Saltalamacchia cleared release waivers earlier today and is free to sign with any club. Gonzalez also adds that the Angels are hopeful that fellow catcher Drew Butera will clear waivers, giving them a chance to keep him in the organization following his recent DFA.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow discussed the timelines for prospects Carlos Correa and Mark Appel with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, and Drellich notes that the 20-year-old Correa could very likely beat the 23-year-old Appel to the Majors. Luhnow acknowledged that Correa has a good chance of being promoted to Triple-A this month, once they see a bit more of how he reacts to facing teams and pitchers for the second time in Double-A. Appel, meanwhile, has struggled a bit at Double-A, and the GM said he’d like to see some consistently dominant outings from Appel before moving him up the Minor League ladder.
- Brendan Rodgers of Florida’s Lake Mary High School is the first of three shortstops perched atop Keith Law’s list of Top 100 Draft prospects at ESPN.com (Insider subscription required and highly recommended, particularly for draft followers). Arizona’s Kevin Newman and Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson add a pair of college shortstops to the mix, while UC Santa Barbara righty Dillon Tate and prep lefty Kolby Allard round out the top five. Former No. 1 overall consideration Mike Matuella has dropped to 19th, as the Duke right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this spring. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken sits 26th on Law’s list following his own Tommy John surgery.
While some have suggested that the Cubs preferred Mark Appel to Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft, scouting director Jason McLeod explains to Phil Rogers of MLB.com that that isn’t the case; the Cubs only planned to select Appel if the Astros selected Bryant with the No. 1 overall pick that season. Rogers spoke with McLeod and cross-checker Sam Hughes about the decision to draft Bryant and how he moved up the Cubs’ draft board with a strong performance in his junior year at San Diego. McLeod admitted that the Cubs had concerns about Bryant’s hit tool, but Hughes went to bat strongly for Bryant after watching him and other top draft bats, including Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier. Most pundits expected the pitching-hungry Cubs to select on of Appel or Jon Gray — whichever the Astros didn’t draft — but McLeod said the Cubs preferred to take a volume approach to pitching rather than select one of the top arms. “History tells us pitching comes from all different parts of the Draft,” said McLeod. With Bryant’s debut nearing, Rogers notes that perhaps one of the best decisions under the Cubs’ new front office has been defying the widely expected decision to select a pitcher in favor of Bryant’s bat.
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that despite the team’s bullpen issues, he hasn’t reached out to agent Scott Boras about Rafael Soriano, and Boras hasn’t contacted the Reds about Soriano (Twitter link). Jocketty feels that Soriano would be too expensive, according to Fay. While Soriano may not be in the mix, the Reds certainly need to pursue some form of upgrade. Kevin Gregg has allowed runs in each of his four outings (two runs in three and one in another), and the team’s collective 4.55 ERA is the fifth-highest in baseball. The group’s FIP is even worse, as no team sports a worse mark than Cincinnati’s 5.10.
- Carlos Gomez will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a small defect or tear in his right hamstring, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He has already received a cortisone shot. Earlier today, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy wrote that Gomez was back in Milwaukee for an MRI after feeling a “pop” while running to first base in the ninth inning of last night’s game. The Brewers will need to make a roster move in order to replace Gomez, and as McCalvy notes, Shane Peterson is the only outfielder on the 40-man roster that is not in the Majors.
- Cardinals right-hander John Lackey has every intention of playing in 2015, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “I wouldn’t be pitching this year if I didn’t plan on pitching next year,” Lackey told Nightengale. The veteran Lackey is, of course, playing for the league minimum in 2015 because of a clause in his previous five-year, $82.5MM pact with the Red Sox that added an additional year at that rate in the event of a significant elbow injury. (Lackey had Tommy John surgery midway through that deal.) The Redbirds acquired him from the BoSox last year in exchange for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig.
Troy Tulowitzki, one day after his name was misspelled on a Rockies’ T-shirt giveaway, was at Yankee Stadium watching New York play Toronto. Tulowitzki flew to Philadelphia yesterday for a second opinion on his left hip flexor strain, which landed him on the disabled list, reports MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. The doctor’s visit (Harding tweets it’s for a dry needling procedure to promote healing) is in of itself routine, but Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports notes Tulowitzki being at Yankees Stadium is no accident after the spelling snafu adding the Rockies cannot be happy he is attending another team’s game while on the DL and this sort of thing can lead to an eventual trade (Twitter links). Last Sunday, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post theorized a trade would only be possible if Tulowitzki was willing to wear the label of a disloyal, bad guy. The All-Star shortstop defended his decision to go to the Yankees’ game telling the Denver Post, “I’m with my family. I wanted to see (Derek) Jeter play one more time.“
Here’s the latest out of the game’s western divisions:
- Though he constitutes a “backup plan” for the club, the Mariners have real interest in Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, tweets Passan. Seattle envisions shifting Kemp to the DH role eventually.
- The Yankees, meanwhile, are currently “not in” on Kemp, tweets Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. We heard earlier today the club is seeking a bat, including several potential options that profile similarly to Kemp (right-handed, power bats). Of course, those players do not come with Kemp’s $107MM in future commitments.
- The Padres have announced right-hander Ian Kennedy, a popular name on the MLBTR pages of late, will not make his start tomorrow because of left oblique soreness, but will throw a side session either Tuesday or Wednesday, per the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Dennis Lin.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow reiterated he is not going to trade closer Chad Qualls, tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM. But, Luhnow said the team would consider dealing a starter from its MLB or Triple-A roster.
- Last year’s number one overall draft pick, Mark Appel of the Astros, has been moved up to Double-A, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The righty struggled mightily at the High-A level, throwing in a notoriously hitter-friendly environment, but had perhaps his best outing on Thursday. “All along the plan has been to get him to Corpus Christi and have him pitch there this summer,” said Luhnow. “And we wanted to build off of some positive momentum to make that happen. We have a lot of pitchers at High-A that are deserving of opportunities higher up. I think there were things that we wanted him to accomplish at Lancaster.”
- Appel’s promotion, as well as being rewarded with a bullpen session earlier today at Minute Maid Park, has been met with displeasure within the Astros‘ clubhouse. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle tweets players have approached several reporters to vent and the comments have been laced with expletives (Twitter links).
- Astros manager Bo Porter addressed the Appel uproar by telling reporters, including Ortiz, “Any time something affects your clubhouse, I think as the manager you have to handle it. I will handle it internally. It’s unfortunate that they have been put in that position.“
- Ortiz opines, via Twitter, Appel’s promotion and bullpen session add fuel to the clubhouse perception the 23-year-old is being babied. Baseball America’s Ben Badler agrees the Astros are sending the wrong message to their players, but their discontent should be over the promotion to Double-A, not the bullpen session (Twitter links).
- The Pirates are believed to have interest in Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provided an update on the Astros’ talks with Brady Aiken after speaking to GM Jeff Luhnow, Casey Close of Excel Sports Management (Aiken’s adviser), a league official and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. Close feels that the the Astros are acting “with disregard” to the draft’s rules, while an MLB official noted that everything about the process has been within the CBA’s guidelines. Here are a few reactions to that story, and some other notes from around the AL West…
- Jim Callis of Baseball America feels that there’s more than just gamesmanship going on with the Aiken situation (Twitter link). Medical reports are highly subjective, he notes, adding that he can’t see the Astros concocting the concern as part of some plan.
- Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com tweets that the Astros are being demonized for doing something that is allowed within the rules laid out in the last CBA. He feels that Major League Baseball created this problem by leaving a loophole in the rules. McDaniel also notes that this is what more traditional organizations dislike about the Astos; while their moves can be perceived as smart or strategic, they come off as cold and calculating (All Twitter links). Interested parties should also note that McDaniel’s timeline is full of discussion with his followers regarding this very topic.
- Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle looks at last year’s extension for Jose Altuve and provides some detail regarding the negotiations. Luhnow and Altuve’s representatives at Octagon had laid most of the groundwork, but there were some loose ends, so Luhnow had a one-on-one breakfast meeting with Altuve (conducted entirely in Spanish) to address the remaining issues. Drellich spoke to Altuve’s former agent, Scott Boras, who unsurprisingly said that he would’ve advised against taking the four-year, $12.5MM guarantee (which can be worth as much as $25MM if two club options are exercised).
- The Astros’ No. 1 pick from 2013, Mark Appel, recently had a cortisone shot in his wrist, agent Scott Boras told Drellich at yesterday’s All-Star game festivities. While Boras characterized the wrist issue as minor (Twitter links), it’s hard not to wonder how much the wrist has bothered him in 2014. Appel has struggled tremendously, posting a 9.57 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
- The Mariners are casting a wide net in their search for a bat and have even contacted the Royals about underperforming DH Billy Butler, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Those talks are not new, however, according to a tweet from Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Over the weekend we learned that the M’s have had serious talks on Marlon Byrd, who would be willing to waive his no-trade clause.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, meanwhile hears that the Mariners have shown interest in Ben Zobrist of the Rays (Twitter link). Zobrist could fill a variety of roles for the Mariners (among many other teams), as Seattle could stand to improve its production at shortstop or in the outfield.
- Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN feels that it would be a mistake for the Mariners to pursue David Price, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested they should do last week. Drayer feels that parting with a package including Nick Franklin, D.J. Peterson and Taijuan Walker too closely resembles the Erik Bedard trade that cost Seattle Adam Jones and Chris Tillman. While trading prospects isn’t necessarily something to shy away from, such a trade would too greatly diminish the team’s hope for sustained success, she opines.
While GM Jeff Luhnow and scouting director Mike Elias recognize how much three straight No. 1 overall picks have helped the Astros organization, the duo said in a press conference yesterday (video link) that they’re hopeful they won’t be in that spot again in 2015. Elias discussed the club’s approach to picking first overall: “We enter the year with a pool of players who we deem to be candidates for the pick. It’s usually about seven players long, the list. And we try to hang with those players as long as we can, reasonably, into the spring. We want to get as much info on these guys as possible so that we’re not blindsided if one of them storms up the list at the end, or if one of them might fall off the list for whatever reason.” Luhnow adds that while the first-round picks add huge value, “you really make your money on the draft in the later rounds.”
Here’s more out of the AL West …
- While it is far too soon to judge last year’s draft results, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper explains why the Astros‘ Mark Appel‘s early-career struggles could actually be cause for concern about his true ceiling. Appel, a college hurler taken first overall last year by Houston, has been knocked around in the low minors — putting him in the company of high-end busts. College arms that have gone on to dominate at the big league level, says Cooper, have tended to overpower lower-level competition easily with their combination of stuff and polish. What is most troubling, Cooper says, is that those stats have coincided with scouting reports that paint Appel as more of a mid-rotation arm.
- Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison underwent disc fusion surgery today, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest (via Twitter). That means, of course, that he will not attempt to rehab and pitch through his back issues. While Harrison sounds determined to have a go at a comeback, so long as it is a viable possibility, success seems far from given at this point.
- Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes that while the Angels have delayed a tough decision by optioning Jarrett Grube to make room for the returning Josh Hamilton, something has to give soon. By this weekend, the team will need another pitcher, and either C.J. Cron or Grant Green — both of whom have hit very well — is likely to be optioned. Fletcher calls Raul Ibanez the elephant in the room, noting that the veteran DH’s numbers haven’t improved since he’s been platooned. Ibanez’s roster spot was said to be secure as recently as May 19, though he’s batted just .143/.226/.286 since that time and is hitting .147/.259/.272 overall.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
The Astros have sent 2013 top overall pick Mark Appel to extended spring training, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter links). The Astros say Appel isn’t injured, and they attribute his struggles to his adjustments to their tandem rotation system, but GM Jeff Luhnow calls Appel’s performance so far “a little unsettling.” Appel has posted a 6.23 ERA with 13 strikeouts and four walks so far with Class A+ Lancaster. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Diamondbacks outfielder Mark Trumbo will be out six weeks with a fracture in his foot, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona tweets. Trumbo’s absence is yet another blow for the Diamondbacks, who are off to a 7-18 start and will now be without one of their key offseason acquisitions (along with Bronson Arroyo and Addison Reed) for an extended period.
- It appears that the price for free-agent-to-be Pablo Sandoval may have increased, and the Giants perhaps should have considered signing him for something close to the five years and $90MM he was reportedly seeking before, Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles writes. Given the lack of good third base options available either internally or on the 2014-15 free-agent market, signing Sandoval to an extension seems to be the Giants’ best bet, Brisbee argues.
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.
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.
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