Stanford righthander Mark Appel entered the season as the No. 1 prospect on Baseball America's Top 100 list for the 2012 draft. With the top billing comes added scrutiny. Appel has premium stuff—including a fastball that touched 98 mph and a nasty slider—but just hasn't dominated like top pitchers from other years.
In fact, of all the college pitchers over the last 10 years who were drafted in top 5 picks or ranked as one of the top 5 picks in Baseball America's Draft Preview, Appel had the second-lowest strikeout rate during each pitcher's sophomore season.
This year, Appel is 2-1, 3.68 with 26 strikeouts and eight walks over 22 innings. Most of that damage came last night against Fresno State. Appel did pitch a complete game and struck out 11, but also gave up seven runs on eight hits.
"The thing about Appel is he's gotten a lot better every year," an American League scout said. "He's got exactly what you're looking for with a pitcher up that high—he has the size, pitchability and the big tools.
"With his tools, all the scouts want more. But I think we're starting to nitpick a little bit. He uses his changeup and he's got that nasty slider and a plus fastball, so a lot of guys are making weak contact and getting cheap hits that they're not going to get at the next level."
That said, Appel does still have room for improvement.
"His fastball is fairly true," the scout said. "There's not a lot of deception and when it's up, it's pretty straight. And he's a great control guy, so if kids are geared up to hit 95, they can hit him a little bit. He throws a lot of strikes, and he needs to work on commanding it and hitting his spots a little more. When he wants to pitch in, he really needs to get it in there. But people forget this is a guy that was throwing 87-91 in high school, so he's still growing into his body and learning how to pitch down in the zone."