Mark Appel Rumors

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.


Mark Appel And Negotiating Leverage

One year after passing on pitcher Mark Appel with the first overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, the Astros nabbed him with the number one slot on Thursday. Yesterday, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs took a look at Appel's bargaining position as a college senior who went in the number one slot.

When Houston bypassed Appel last year, the righty fell all the way to the Pirates at number eight. Despite a reported $3.8MM offer to join the Pittsburgh organization, Appel decide to return to Stanford for his senior season. In doing so, Appel utilized the only substantial leverage he had, gambling that he would force his way back to the top of the draft board in 2013 and be selected with a higher draft slot (with its accompanying higher bonus allocation). Indeed, that is exactly what happened. 

Having already played his prime negotiating card last year, and now entering the draft as a college senior, one might suspect that Appel will have a relatively weak bargaining position in working out his bonus with Houston. But that may not be the case, explains CameronPlayers drafted this year must agree to terms with their teams by July 12th at 5:00 PM EST. That rule, however, excepts college seniors that have no remaining NCAA eligibility. Such players can continue to negotiate until the very eve of next year's draft.

With Appel's selection slot representing a huge chunk ($7.79MM) of the Astros total $11.7MM bonus pool, says Cameron, the team must be cognizant of the trajectory of its negotiations with Appel before inking deals with the remainder of its selections. The reason is that a team can only use the bonus pool money it is allocated for a given draft slot if it actually signs the player it chooses in that slot. And if a team spends more than 5% above its total bonus pool allocation, it will lose its first pick in the next draft — a particularly heavy price for an Astros team that figures to pick at the top of the draft next year. So, signing other players at above-slot rates before agreeing to terms with Appel carries a lot of risk for Houston. With a later negotiating deadline than other top picks, Appel can, in Cameron's words, "basically hold the Astros bonus pool hostage." (It is also worth noting, as Cameron does, that Appel is being advised by the notoriously aggressive Boras Corporation.)

While the possibility for gamesmanship exists, Cameron notes that several other factors — including Appel's ties to Houston and the lack of appealing alternatives to signing — make it more likely that he will end up signing at or near the recommended slot bonus. Indeed, there would be major risks to both sides if Appel were to extend negotiations beyond the July 12 deadline. For Appel, there is no room to improve his draft position; a one-year tour through an independent league would carry risk of injury (and/or lowering of his prospect stock) but no possibility of achieving a higher draft slot. The current feel-good story of Appel returning to his Houston roots should create some nice marketing opportunities that he could jeopardize by overly aggressive bargaining. And perhaps most importantly, Appel would very likely be slowing his progression to the majors. Appel is often characterized as a highly polished pitcher who is expected to ascend quickly, and the Astros have intimated that he will start his professional career at the upper levels of the Houston system. The sooner Appel forces his new club to call him up, the sooner he can begin accruing service time. An additional arbitration year and/or an earlier free agent start could mean upwards of tens of millions of dollars down the road. 

In sum, Appel's new means of exercising leverage brings more balance to the table, but does so by setting up the potential for a game of chicken. Both sides seem likely to take this into account in advance and not allow the July 12 to pass with such risk and uncertainty on the table. (Indeed, the Astros may have already signalled their intention to avoid the issue by drafting six collegiate players against just three high-schoolers amongst its other selections in the first ten rounds.) Nevertheless, the tacit threat could certainly help to elevate the bonus that Appel receives, and it will be interesting to see how negotiations progress and where they end up.


Draft Notes: Appel, Wren, Jones

Astros owner Jim Crane is confident that his team can reach an agreement with the top overall pick in this weekend's draft, Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, reports Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. "They had something worked out that they felt comfortable," says Crane. Appel did not sign after being selected by the Pirates with the No. 8 overall pick last year, but the Astros will be able to offer him more money this year — the bonus pool allotment for the No. 1 pick in 2013 is about $7.8MM. Here are more notes from the draft.

  • The Braves took Georgia Tech center fielder Kyle Wren in the eighth round on Friday, and his father, Braves GM Frank Wren, found that a bit awkward, Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. "Selfishly we’re getting a player with talent, so I feel good about that," says Frank Wren. "But I think it’s going to be a little tougher on him than probably anyone else. That’s the (hard) part that as a dad, just knowing going in that he’s going to have endure some of that." Indeed, Kyle Wren looks like a credible pick from a talent perspective — Baseball America ranked him the No. 215 prospect in the draft, and the Braves picked him at No. 253. Rogers notes that, in 2002, the Braves also drafted former GM John Schuerholz's son Jonathan.
  • In the ninth round of the draft, the Reds picked Chad Jones — the same Chad Jones who was selected as a safety by the New York Giants in the third round of the NFL Draft in 2010. Jim Kleinpeter of the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes that Jones is taking a very unusual path back into professional sports. The former two-sport LSU standout almost lost his leg in a car accident soon after the Giants picked him, and now, years later and after lots of rehabilitation for his leg injuries, he's emerged as a left-handed pitching prospect. Jones played for LSU's 2007 national champion football team, as well as its 2009 College World Series-winning baseball team.

Draft Links: Day One Winners, Appel, Dodgers, M’s

Yesterday was the first day of Major League Baseball's amateur draft, and the Astros kicked things off by selecting Houston native Mark Appel with the No. 1 overall pick. MLBTR covered the draft extensively last night; Zach Links kept track of the first round results as well as the results from the first competitive balance round, and I hosted a draft chat that ran for nearly four hours, covering the entirety of the first round. Here's more on the first day of the draft…

  • ESPN's Keith Law (Insider required and recommended for Law's draft work) lists the Rays' selection of Ryne Stanek at No. 29 atop his list of picks he "loves" from yesterday's selections. He also lists his top 10 remaining talents, headlined by high school right-hander Kyle Serrano.
  • Appel gives the Astros a "native son to build the organization around," writes Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. Appel told Smith that being selected by the Astros was "incredibly special" and "very exciting." He recalls the opening of Minute Maid Park as a child in 2000, and adds that most of his family still lives in Houston. GM Jeff Luhnow said Appel won't be rushed to the Majors, and Smith adds that late 2014 or early 2015 are realistic goals for his MLB debut.
  • Dodgers vice president of scouting Logan White told reporters, including MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, that the team views top picks Chris Anderson (Jacksonville University) and Tom Windle (University of Minnesota) as starters (Twitter link). The pair will not be rushed to the Majors as relievers like Paco Rodriguez was in 2012.
  • ESPN's Jerry Crasnick looks at some of the stories from day one of the draft, including the friendly rivalries between Georgia outfielders Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows and California infielders Dominic Smith and J.P. Crawford. "[Crawford is] just a great guy and a great person," Smith told Crasnick. "We're pretty tight. He's like my baseball brother."
  • Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara says that he doesn't prefer any specific type of player, but Dave Cameron of the U.S.S. Mariner points out that he leans toward polished college players. In four of his five drafts as scouting director McNamara has chosen Dustin Ackley, Danny Hultzen, Mike Zunino and now D.J. Peterson — all of whom were regarded as "safe bets."

Draft Reactions: Appel, Gray, Cubs, Red Sox

With the first round of the 2013 draft in the books, here's a look at the latest news on this year's top picks..

  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters, including Alyson Footer of MLB.com (via Twitter) Houston viewed Mark Appel as the pick to beat throughout the scouting year and never saw a player who became more appealing than the right-hander.
  • Luhnow went on to say that the Astros won't rush Appel to the big leagues and there's no timetable for when he could eventually make his way up to the varsity squad (Twitter links).
  • Cubs scouting director Jason McLeod wasn't bothered by Jonathan Gray's positive test for Adderall, according to Meghan Montemurro of The Northwest Herald (Twitter link).  The Cubs, of course, selected Kris Bryant with the No. 2 pick.
  • Red Sox's first round pick Trey Ball sounds like he's ready to join the Red Sox rather than attend the University of Texas based on this quote from Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal (viaTwitter).  "Anything can happen, but I feel that Boston is right for me," said the left-hander, who was taken with the No. 7 pick.
  • A's pick Billy McKinney says that the Yankees, Rangers, and Giants also expressed interest in him, tweets Paul Gutierrez of CSNCalifornia.com.

Astros Select Mark Appel First Overall

The Astros have officially drafted Mark Appel with the first overall pick in the 2013 draft.  Keith Law of ESPN.com (via Twitter) heard minutes prior to the selection that the Astros were set to take the Stanford product with the first pick.

Appel, who celebrates his 22nd birthday next week, was selected with the No. 8 pick in last year's draft by the Pirates.  However, the Scott Boras client couldn't come to terms on a contract with the Bucs, prompting him to return to school.  The Astros considered taking Appel with the No. 1 pick last year but opted against doing so when their $6MM offer was rejected.  They wound up taking high school shortstop Carlos Correa with the No. 1 pick instead and inked him to a $4.8MM pact.

The Astros have selected first overall on two other occasions.  They selected Phil Nevin over Derek Jeter and others in 1992 and chose Floyd Bannister from a class featuring Alan Trammell in 1976.  The slot recommendation for the top pick in this year's draft is roughly $7.79MM.

While Appel is not subject to the July 15th signing deadline, GM Jeff Luhnow says they'll sign him before then, tweets Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.


Draft Notes: Royals, Cubs, Bryant, Astros, Blue Jays

In his final installment of his Top 100 Draft Flashback series, Matt Eddy of Baseball America assigned values to each of the top ten picks and gave tiered values to the entire first round.  Eddy lumps the together the picks in groups of five and uses WAR to weigh each tier against one another.  He also identifies the best players to be plucked out of each group, starting with Alex Rodriguez (1-5), Frank Thomas/Derek Jeter (6-10), and Manny Ramirez (11-15).  Here's the latest draft news as we close in on the first pick at 6pm central..

  • Keith Law of ESPN.com (via Twitter) hears that the Astros will take Mark Appel No. 1.
  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter) isn't sure if the Royals have a deal worked out with Phil Bickford but he's certain that some team does.  The right-hander's adviser kept him from talking to club executives this week.
  • It was reported earlier today that the Royals have reached a deal to take Bickford with the No. 8 pick, but the club is adamant that they have no such agreement, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star
  • There's some buzz around baseball that the Cubs are leaning towards taking Kris Bryant over a pitcher, tweets David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com.
  • Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Twitter link) spoke to one scouting director picking early in first round about how he thinks the top of the draft will play out.  His guess is that the Astros will take Jonathan Gray, the Cubs will grab Mark Appel at No. 2, and the Rockies will draft Bryant with the third pick.  
  • Shi Davidi of Sportsnet broke down the Blue Jays' draft strategy and spoke with Matt Smoral about his draft experience last year.  The left-hander, who saw his stock drop thanks to a stress fracture in his right foot, assumed he was UNC-bound as he didn't expect any club to meet his $2MM asking price.  “Initially, I went, not into panic, but said, ‘Oh crap, I’m going to college,’” the No. 50 pick in last year's draft said. “[The new rules] definitely changed the game but the way I looked at was, I went in there with a number that me and my family and my agent got together, and I was good with going either way."  Toronto found room in the budget for Smoral by essentially punting their picks from rounds 4-10, and Davidi surmises that they'll be open to getting creative this year if another opportunity falls into their lap.
  • Marc Carig of Newsday (via Twitter) hears that the Mets will draft the best player available at No. 11, rather than target need.