Stanford RHP Mark Appel seems to be the consensus top prospect in the nation after rejecting a $3.8 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season to return for his senior year. Appel going off the board after the Chicago Cubs, who pick second, is unlikely. But if he is there at number 5 when the Indians make their first selection, they will get a steal.
It’s tough to disagree with his decision to go back to school; Appel has improved in almost every facet of his game and thus far looks to be more polished and ready for big league action. He’s a pitcher that can potentially come in late in 2013 and contribute to the team that picks him – it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make a few starts or gain some experience pitching out of the bullpen in September.
After the 2012 collegiate season, experts had two main criticisms with Appel – a lack of fastball command at his highest velocity and strikeout numbers that weren’t where they should be considering his impressive stuff. In 2013, Appel has refined his game and improved on those aspects. A look at his 2013 stats shows a decrease in BB/9 and HR/9, an increase in K/9, and a much improved ERA through 9 games (stats from College Splits):
His fastball sits at 94-97mph to start games and can touch 98, an improvement on his 2012 readings. His slider is a definite plus pitch, and his change-up is beginning to miss bats more often, leading to an increase in the ability to get batters out. While command of his fastball has improved, he still has a tendency to miss the zone when he throws the pitch at it’s highest velocity. Luckily Appel is young and has plenty of time to improve. But with his strong velocity numbers, he can hold off slightly on the pitch and still be effective.
Combine his improving stuff with his prototypical size (6’5”, 215) and his willingness to work on his weaknesses, Appel clearly has #1 starter potential in the MLB. If he somehow drops to the Tribe (highly unlikely), Appel would form an exciting young duo with Trevor Bauer that could anchor the team’s rotation for years.
Regardless of the team that selects him, Mark Appel is an exciting pitcher. If he pans out, he will be fun to watch in the big leagues.