SCOTTSDALE--The most talked about pitcher in the minors this year--for better or worse--was Mark Appel. The No. 1 pick in the draft in 2013 struggled in high Class A Lancaster, posting one of the worst seasons, historically, the Cal League has ever seen.
He also had a much-publicized and much-dissected session with Astros pitching coach Brent Strom at Minute Maid Park.
Then he got promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi and things got much better. His stuff started to return to what was expected of him, including fastballs up to 97 mph and sharper offspeed pitches. He went 1-2, 3.69 with Corpus Christi, allowed just two home runs in 39 innings, and struck out 38 against 13 walks for a roughly 3-to-1 ratio.
He’s in the Arizona Fall League now, pitching for the Salt River Rafters, and started at Scottsdale on Wednesday night. He went three innings, allowed a hit and a walk and struck out two before yielding the mound. He threw 27 of his 47 pitches for strikes.
He’s on the extreme glove side of the rubber, threatening to be off the slab entirely.
He faced four hitters in the first--Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who has been mighty impressive early, doubled off him--and threw 20 pitches, 10 for strikes. He threw his fastball 14 times that inning, and was 94-97 with noticeable cut at the lower end of the range. He threw two sliders, one at 83 and one at 87, both called balls.
He also threw three changeups--two to Nimmo, including the pitch Nimmo smacked into right-center field. Those pitches were 86-89 mph, lacked much in the way of fade and seemed to stay up in the zone.
In the second and third innings, Appel dialed back the velocity, sitting 92-95, and instead focusing on sinking the ball and moving it around the strike zone. He recorded both of his Ks in the second inning--one of the Yankees’ Tyler Austin and the other of Mets prospects Matt Reynolds--on sliders running hard away from the righthanders.