Mark Appel Rumors

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.

Prospect Rumor Roundup: 2012 Draft Review

The 2013 Major League Baseball amateur draft will begin later today and the Houston Astros possess the first overall pick for the second year in a row. The draft acts as a cost-effective tool for clubs looking to stockpile young talent. Despite the thousands of hours logged by each club's scouting department while trying to determine the best amateur talents available, the draft remains a bit of a crapshoot and will be full of hits and misses — although it may be years before most teams' outcomes are fully known.

Five players from the 2012 draft — Kevin Gausman (fourth overall, Orioles), Michael Wacha (19th overall, Cardinals), Paco Rodriguez (second round, Dodgers), Alex Wood (second round, Braves) and Michael Roth (ninth round, Angels) — have already made their debuts in The Show. Many others have seen their prospect values soar, while a select few have already taken steps backward. It's generally thought that the best talents of any given draft will be found in the first five to 10 picks but success is never a guarantee. Let's have a look at the early results from the first 10 picks of the 2012 draft and see if that belief has held true.

1. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (Puerto Rico HS): It's been reported that Houston's front office went down to the wire before finally settling on Correa as the first overall pick. While speaking with "someone in the know" during the offseason, I was told that one of the things that made the young Puerto Rican attractive — other than his obvious raw talents — was that he will likely be ready to be an impact talent at the big league level when the rebuilding Astros are ready to legitimately compete in the American League West. Someone like Gausman, Mark Appel, or Mike Zunino are more likely to see their best seasons occur while the club is still finding its competitive footing. Still just 18, Correa has held his own in A-ball while showing the ability to hit for a solid average, an impressive understanding of the strike zone and good power.

2. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Georgia HS): Buxton, a toolsy Georgia native, has made Correa's 2013 numbers look pedestrian. The Twins prospect is currently hitting .348 with a 1.023 OPS and 26 stolen bases in 53 games. At just 19 years of age, the gifted centerfielder looks too advanced for Low-A ball. Robert Emrich of MiLB.com wrote a piece on Buxton last night after the prospect went 5-for-6 with two triples.

3. Mike Zunino, C, Mariners (University of Florida): Seattle fans were eager to see the catcher make the big league club out of Spring Training but the organization wisely played it safe and assigned him to Triple-A. After a quick start to the 2013 season, holes in Zunino's game were exposed and his batting average plummeted while his strikeout rate rose. Currently hitting just .228, he's still showing impressive power with 11 home runs in 43 games.

4. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Orioles (LSU): As mentioned above in the intro, Gausman has already reached the Majors — no doubt a welcome sight for the O's after former top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy succumbed to an elbow injury.  Gausman struck out 49 batters with just five walks in eight Double-A starts, though his Major League results have thus far been inconsistent (a 7.20 ERA through three starts).

5. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals (University of San Francisco): Considered almost on par with Gausman from a talent perspective prior to the draft, Zimmer is currently stuck in High-A ball. He's flashed a heavy, powerful fastball and has struck out 65 batters in 52 innings of work but he's struggled with his command, resulting in seven home runs allowed and a 5.54 ERA.

6. Albert Almora, OF, Cubs (Florida HS): Considered a gifted fielder, it was said that Almora's defensive work in center field was almost MLB caliber at the time of the draft. The Florida native got a late start to the 2013 season thanks to a broken hamate bone but he's been on fire since being activated. He's hitting .429 with just six strikeouts in 12 games.

7. Max Fried, LHP, Padres (California HS): Fried got off to a quick start to the year and has shown glimpses of his immense talent but he's also displayed the need for improvements in a number of areas. He's allowed 13 runs in his last 13 1/3 innings of work. On the year, he's issued 22 walks in 44 innings and has struggled against right-handed hitters ( RHHs at .265 vs. LHHs batting .149).

8. Mark Appel, RHP, Pirates (Stanford): Appel was the lone 2012 first-rounder that did not come to terms with the club that selected him. He returned to Stanford for his senior year of college and has improved his draft stock; he's expected to be a top-three pick, going to either the Astros, Cubs or Rockies. That should land him a larger signing bonus than he would have been eligible for with the Pirates in 2012. Had Appel signed with Pittsburgh, he would have given the organization quite an impressive future rotation along with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Tim Keown of ESPN.com recently wrote about Appel's decision to return to college and re-enter the draft in 2013.

9. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins (Oklahoma State): Like Almora, Heaney was slowed by injury and did not make his first start of the year until late May. In total, he's made three starts and has an ERA below 2.00 with 18 strikeouts in just 12 1/3 innings. He joins Justin Nicolino, who was acquired from the Blue Jays in the offseason, as a pair of impressive left-handed pitching prospects that look close to ready for the challenge of Double-A.

10. David Dahl, OF, Rockies (Alabama HS): Dahl made a very positive impression during his 67-game pro debut in 2012 and, during the offseason, was touted as one of the steals of the draft as the 10th overall selection. However, some questionable decision making (which reportedly involved missing a flight) got him shipped out to extended Spring Training in April, despite originally earning a roster spot on the Low-A club to begin the season.  Dahl has since regained his Low-A spot and produced solid-but-unspectacular results in his first 10 games; he was recently placed on the minor league disabled list.

Supplemental Round Picks of Note

The first round of the MLB amateur draft is not the only place to find high-ceiling talent. Quality prospects can be found littered throughout the 40 rounds. Below are some of the players that were taken in the supplemental first round — picks mainly given as compensation for the loss of key free agents from the previous offseason. A number of the players selected in that round have looked impressive early in their careers and have performed well enough to suggest they should have been true first-round selections.

Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins: Berrios brings a much-needed power arm to the Twins organization. The Puerto Rico native has struck out 44 batters in 39 innings despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the Low-A Midwest League; Berrios just recently turned 19 years old.

Zach Eflin, RHP, Padres: Like his fellow Padres prospect Max Fried, Eflin was a promising prep arm acquired in the 2012 draft. Unlike his southpaw teammate, though, the right-hander has gotten stronger as the year has progressed and has been a little more consistent.

Daniel Robertson, SS, Athletics: Originally expected to move from shortstop to third base as a pro, Robertson's steady defensive play has convinced the organization to give him a longer look at his natural position. Despite missing much of the first month of the year while rehabbing an injury, the young hitter has shown flashes of above-average potential at the plate.

Kevin Plawecki, C, Mets: High draft picks from the college ranks typically skip over Low-A ball and begin their careers in High-A ball, but the Mets organization has been cautious with Plawecki — possibly to give him an opportunity to polish his defense. The 22-year-old prospect is showing that his bat is more than ready for a promotion with a .341 batting average and 30 extra base hits. MLB.com's Teddy Cahill recently wrote a feature on Plawecki.

Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers: After a much-hyped start to his pro career that saw him hit 22 home runs in his first 59 games, the left-handed hitter has come crashing back down to earth. He's slugged another 14 dingers this year but he's also struck out 89 times in 55 games, causing his batting average to dip to .210. He has a lot of adjustments to make to avoid becoming the next Russell Branyan.

Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Astros: McCullers showed the raw potential to be a first round draft pick in the 2012 draft but questions about his delivery and potential move to the bullpen caused him to slip into the supplemental round. The young pitcher, though, has temporarily quieted his critics and overpowered the Midwest League with a 1.70 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.

Eddie Butler, RHP, Rockies: As with McCullers, Butler was thought to be potentially headed for a pro career out of the bullpen. He's been exceptional as a starter, although the college product did begin the year in Low-A ball where he should have dominated the less-experienced competition. He was recently promoted to High-A ball and has a 3.71 ERA in his first three starts. David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle wrote about Butler's promotion.



Draft Notes: Appel, Astros, Bryant, Ramirez Jr.

We're one day away from the 2013 amateur draft. MLBTR will be providing live updates as the first and supplemental rounds progress, and we'll also host a draft chat for those who wish to participate. Here's the latest with just over 24 hours until things kick off…

  • Mark Appel gambled on himself by refusing to sign with the Pirates, and it looks like it's about to pay off, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman adds that there's been extra suggestion of late that the Astros could select Appel first overall this time around. Appel will surely seek "at least" the $7.79MM slot value with the first overall pick, writes Heyman.
  • Meanwhile Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle writes that Appel's signability is still an issue for the Astros. General manager Jeff Luhnow told Ortiz that the Astros will set their own number (in terms of what they'd like to pay), and in some cases they'll be willing to go over or under that number. Luhnow adds: "That's what we did last year, and it worked out great because we were able to maximize what we got for our total pool of resources. We'll use that same strategy this year."
  • In an Insider-only piece, former Nationals GM and ESPN columnist Jim Bowden opines that the Astros should select San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant first overall. He writes that most of the best No. 1 overall picks ever — including Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Darryl Strawberry and Joe Mauer — are position players. He feels that Bryant, whom he calls the closest to Major League ready of any player in the draft, minimizes Houston's risk.
  • Stan Grossfield of the Boston Globe writes that Manny Ramirez's son, Manny Ramirez Jr., is expected to be drafted out of high school in the middle rounds of the draft. Ramirez Jr. has tremendous work ethic, according to his high school baseball instructors. A Red Sox executive told Grossfield that while Ramirez Jr. has power, Boston isn't likely to draft him. Likewise, Orioles GM Dan Duquette told Grossfield he doesn't know much about Ramirez Jr. The younger Ramirez says he learned quite a bit from interacting with his father's teammates and coaches, including David Ortiz, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Don Mattingly.

Draft Notes: Cubs, Brewers

The 2013 amateur draft begins Thursday evening with the first 73 picks, continues Friday with rounds 3-10, and concludes Saturday with rounds 11-40. The Astros have the first selection in the draft and nearly half of MLBTR readers believe Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray will be the one to hear his name called. Earlier today, we learned Gray, Stanford's Mark Appel, San Diego's Kris Bryant, and North Carolina's Colin Moran are the Astros' top possibilities, with high school outfielder Clint Frazier a distant fifth. Let's take a look at today's other draft notes:

  • The Cubs have spent most of their recent draft prep discussing their second and third round selections (41st and 75th overall) rather than who to take with the second overall choice, reports MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. "We’ve probably discussed No. 2 for about two hours of the four days we’ve been here," said Jason McLeod, the Cubs' senior vice president for scouting and player development. "We’ll get into those guys more this week."
  • Those guys are Gray, Appel, Bryant, and Moran, according to Muskat in that same piece.
  • McLeod doesn't want the Cubs to pigeonhole themselves into using the second overall pick on need (starting pitching); but, instead are looking for a player "to provide significant impact and hopefully get us to where we want to go on a consistent basis," writes Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald
  • The Brewers are confident they will land a big league talent even though their first pick won't come until the second round at number 54, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I enjoy the challenge," Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid told Haudricout. "You might miss the chance for a so-called impact player in the first round but there will be some (future) big-leaguers in there. We've just got to find them." The Brewers forfeited their first round draft choice (17th overall) when they signed free agent Kyle Lohse.
  • Within that same column, Haudricourt blames the Brewers' current woes, as well as a farm system thin on projected impact players, on their failure in the 2008 and 2009 drafts. The Brewers had 11 selections in the first two rounds of those drafts and none of those players have spent a day with the club at the MLB level and the top six picks in the 2008 draft are no longer with the organization.
  • Many teams have held pre-Draft workouts to get a better look at the prospects. MLB.com's Adam McCalvy provided an inside look at those workouts from the viewpoint of a former participant, Milwaukee outfielder Logan Schafer, who attended a Brewers' workout in 2008 and was later drafted by the team in the third round that year.  

Astros Notes: Norris, Appel, Boras, Luhnow

Astros hurler Bud Norris continues to have a strong season and he figures to be one of the most sought-after trade pieces this summer, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.  Norris, who was taken in the sixth round of the 2006 draft, currently has a career-best 3.39 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 through 12 starts.  How will this year's draft shake out for the Astros?  Here's the latest..

  • Agent Scott Boras' history of being a tough negotiator has led many to theorize that the Astros will pass on Mark Appel in an effort to spread their bonus pool money and avoid drawn-out post-draft talks.  For what it's worth, Boras told Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle that he has no intention of overvaluing client Mark Appel and backing the Astros into a corner if they take him. 
  • Boras said he's had a couple of recent pre-draft conversations with Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and believes that he'll select the best available player on the board, not the player with the best monetary value.  He also believes that the Astros have yet to make up their mind on the No. 1 pick.
  • Appel, Jonathan Gray, Kris Bryant, and Colin Moran are the Astros' top possibilities, with high school outfielder Clint Frazier a distant fifth, Smith writes.

Draft Notes: Moran, Appel, Pirates, Int’l Draft

Yesterday, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told ESPN's Buster Olney that he's less-than-thrilled with the depth in this year's draft.  However, you'll be hard pressed to find scouts that aren't high on the talent near the top of the boards.  Here's the latest draft news..

  • UNC third baseman Colin Moran is moving up draft boards and some say he might even go first overall to the Astros, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  However, Jonathan Gray, Mark Appel, and Kris Bryant are generally viewed as the top three players in the draft. 
  • Speaking of Appel, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com writes that he has no regrets about his decision to return to Stanford last year rather than sign with the Pirates.  "I tried to shield myself from it," Appel said of talk that he only returned to school to land more money this year. "But when you're on Twitter and anyone can say anything behind a keyboard without having to say it to your face, people will show their true colors. I saw a lot of people calling me greedy and things like that. Initially, it affected me, because I don't think anyone likes it when people don't like you. Then I realized that these people don't know me. All they know is I turned down $3.8MM."
  • The international draft talk is raising job security concerns amongst scouts, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America.  Some area scouts are worried about being moved to part-time status or losing their jobs altogether, particularly in countries that don’t produce a high volume of talent.  In the long term, scouts are concerned that if a draft leads to a decrease in the number of players signed in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, then that could hurt scouting jobs in those countries as well.  However, most international directors say that they aren't planning on changing much if an international draft is put into place.

Cubs Notes: Garza, Sveum, Draft, Guillen

Matt Garza made his second start since being activated from the disabled list, but it didn't go as well as his five shutout innings in his season debut last Tuesday versus the Pirates. Garza, number eight on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, needed 92 pitches (52 for strikes) to cover four innings against the Reds. The right-hander struck out seven but allowed four runs on four hits with four walks (one intentional), one HBP, and a wild pitch. Garza received a no-decision as the Cubs rallied for a 5-4 victory in 10 innings snapping their six-game losing streak. In other North Side news:

  • The present for the Cubs has fallen into the abyss and the future is flush with questions, opines Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. Sullivan points to no hints ownership will increase payroll and a farm system which remains bereft of pitching talent at the upper levels and that would-be stars such as outfielder Brett Jackson and third baseman Josh Vitters have yet to pan out.
  • Within the same piece, Sullivan writes there's no chance manager Dale Sveum will be fired, as team President Theo Epstein believes the coaching staff has done a "fine" job.
  • The Cubs will have the second overall selection in the June 6 amateur draft, but Epstein warns not to pin the hopes of the franchise on that player. "There are some promising players on the way, but we have a lot of work to do," Epstein told Sullivan. "The No. 2 pick is a great opportunity, but one player by himself cannot make a system.
  • The Cubs are eyeing pitchers Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma and Mark Appel of Stanford and third basemen Kris Bryant of San Diego and Colin Moran of North Carolina with that pick, reports MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Manager Dale Sveum has been watching video of the quartet and provides Muskat with a brief scouting report on each.
  • With the Crosstown Classic against the White Sox beginning tomorrow, former South Side manager Ozzie Guillen said recently he would be willing to be a coach for the Cubs. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweeted Sveum's response, "I don't have no openings on my staff."

Draft Links: Manaea, McGuire, Prep Catchers

Kevin Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, made his Major League debut for the Orioles last night. In a poll on Wednesday, roughly 39 percent of MLBTR readers agreed that Michael Wacha of the Cardinals would be the next first-round pick from last year's draft to make the leap to the big leagues. There are less than two weeks until the 2013 draft, and we'll keep track of today's draft-related news here…

  • The first mock draft from Jim Callis of Baseball America had the Astros taking Mark Appel No. 1 overall, but his newest version has the Astros taking Jonathan Gray.  That leaves Appel to go to the Cubs at No. 2, but it's not clear right now who the Cubs would take between the two pitchers if Houston winds up taking a hitter instead.
  • Callis views Sean Manaea as a complete wild card in this year's draft (Twitter link). He likens the Indiana State lefty to Lucas Giolito, who the Nationals drafted 16th overall last year. Like Giolito, Manaea was once considered a possible No. 1 overall selection, but injuries have caused his stock to fall and it's highly difficult to predict where he'll land.
  • Prep catcher Reese McGuire will have to make a tough choice between attending college and going pro, but he's eager for the draft nonetheless, writes MLB.com's Doug Miller.  While McGuire has a great opportunity to play ball at the University of San Diego, he might not be able to resist the pull of the majors if goes as high as he is projected to.  MLB.com currently has the catcher going No. 11 to the Mets.
  • McGuire isn't the only high school catcher who is drawing interest from clubs at the top of the draft, writes Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.  Behind him are Jon Denney from Oklahoma and South Carolina's Nick Ciuffo.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Draft Notes: Astros, Appel, Gray, Cubs, Harvey

MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo was asked on Twitter where high school outfielder Clint Frazier, whom many expect to go in the Top 10 of the MLB Draft, ranks in comparison to high school talents from previous drafts. Mayo notes that it's hard to ignore hindsight and view players in the same light as he did when they were amateurs, but he ranked Frazier as the eighth-best talent among 36 high school hitters selected in the first round dating back to 2009. Here's more on the draft…

  • The Astros have six players on their draft board but Frazier looks to be edging out Austin Meadows, leaving them with Frazier, Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, Kris Bryant and Colin Moran, according to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. Bryant and Frazier are seen as dark horses if the team decides Appel and Gray aren't worth the money they're asking. Should Scott Boras and Appel highball the Astros, money will become an issue. Smith notes that it's very close between Appel and Gray, adding that Gray has ties to the Astros and is open to negotiating (All links to Smith's Twitter account).
  • Cubs president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer, top scouting/player development executive Jason McLeod and amateur scouting director Jaron Madison are currently in Oklahoma City to meet with Gray, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Cubs are still expected to take either Gray or Appel at No. 2 overall.
  • Bill Kiser of MLB.com profiles prep right-hander Hunter Harvey, whose stock has risen enough that he's considered a likely first-rounder. Harvey is the son of former MLB closer Bryan Harvey, who saved an AL-best 46 saves in 1991 and made two All-Star teams. The younger Harvey has a 0.38 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 54 2/3 high school innings this season. Harvey, whose fastball sits in the mid-90s and has touched 97, also features a solid curveball. Mayo had him going 25th to the Giants in his mock draft, while John Sickels of Minorleagueball.com has him going 30th to the Rangers and ESPN's Keith Law (Insider req'd) has him at No. 24 to the Athletics.