- Full name Mark Stewart Appel
- Born 07/15/1991 in Houston, TX
- Profile Ht.: 6'5" / Wt.: 220 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Stanford
- Debut 06/29/2022
Drafted in the 1st round (1st overall) by the Houston Astros in 2013 (signed for $6,350,000).
View Draft ReportAppel picked up where he left off last year, after he turned down $3.8 million from the Pirates as the eighth overall pick. As a senior, he fine-tuned his stuff and graduated with a degree in management science and engineering. He shows everything scouts look for in a frontline pitcher. He's 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds with a clean delivery, and he is a solid athlete who played basketball in high school. Appel's fastball sits in the mid-90s and gets as high as 98 mph, and he holds his velocity deep into games. His slider is a plus pitch that generates swings and misses with its sharp, late break. Under Stanford pitching coach Rusty Filter--who was Stephen Strasburg's pitching coach at San Diego State--Appel has gotten a little more downhill with his fastball and has improved his changeup as a senior, and it should be at least an average third offering. Appel has improved every year at Stanford and dominated as a senior, and he should move quickly through the minor leagues.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Appel's decision to pass on signing with the Pirates as the No. 8 overall pick in the 2012 draft paid off, as he returned to Stanford for his senior year, went first overall to the Astros in 2013 and signed for $6.35 million. Thus far, that's been the career highlight for Appel, who had a brutal first full season and was traded to Philadelphia after the 2015 season in the seven-player deal that sent Ken Giles to Houston. Appel made eight starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2016 before having season-ending surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow. Before he got hurt, Appel showed a fastball around 92-94 mph and reached 98, though he had trouble maintaining his velocity deep into starts. His fastball comes in on a flat plane, making it more hittable, especially since he struggles to command it down in the zone. His slider is a plus pitch, while his changeup is below-average. The Phillies intend to keep developing Appel as a starter, though an upper-90s fastball in short bursts combined with a plus slider would be intriguing out of the bullpen. He is expected to be at full strength for spring training and should return to Triple-A.
In a year when Lance McCullers, Michael Feliz and Vince Velasquez all pitched important innings for the Astros' playoff push, it was notable who didn't reach Houston. Appel, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, was not called on to help the big league roster although he was on the mound for Fresno's win to clinch the Pacific Coast League title. Grading out Appel pitch by pitch, he appears to have the makings of a frontline starter, but the sum of those parts rarely adds up. His fastball's velocity appears to make it a plus-plus offering because he sits 93-95 mph and will touch 96-98. His mid-80s slider is a plus pitch as well and his changeup will flash average on a regular basis, with scouts giving it plus grades on its best days. That said, his fastball plays average (if not below) because it is too flat and hitters pick it up too easily. Hitters get very comfortable at-bats against Appel. In 12 of his 53 (23 percent) pro starts, he's given up more runs than innings pitched. Appel still has the potential to be a frontline starter if he can add command, feel and deception. But it's more likely that he will be a durable No. 4 starter and even that requires him to take a step forward.
The Astros considered taking Appel at No. 1 overall in 2012 but took Carlos Correa instead. They got Appel a year later anyway after he failed to sign with the Pirates in 2012. It worked out for both sides. Appel completed his management science and engineering degree at Stanford and ended up with a $6.35 million bonus as the top pick in 2013. High Class A California League hitters lit up Appel, but a midseason tutoring session with big league pitching coach Brent Strom helped synchronize the righthander's delivery and led to better results from his front-line stuff. He has three pitches that show plus. The question is whether they'll show plus on the same night. Appel needs to command his tight, mid-80s slider more, but he pitches at 92-98 mph consistently with his fastball, sitting 94-95. At his best, he has great command of his changeup and a wipeout slider, but he lacks deception and consistent command, and hitters get better swings at his fastball and slider as a result. His strong body and sound delivery should give him durability. After a solid Arizona Fall League performance, Appel will go to big league camp with a chance to compete for a job. The Astros don't have great urgency to fast-track him, so he probably will begin 2015 back at Double-A Corpus Christi.
The Astros flirted with taking Appel, who lived in Houston until he was 12, with the first pick in the 2012 draft, but they weren't sure he'd sign for the $6 million they were offering, so they passed. The move ended up paying off--on and off the field--for Appel. He was able to finish his Management Science and Engineering degree at Stanford, while on the field, he dominated more consistently as a senior and ended up signing a $6.35 million bonus as the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. Appel can't match the pure gas of fellow first-rounder Jonathan Gray, but he does have one of the best fastballs in his draft class. He sits 93-96 mph and will touch 99 from a clean delivery. Appel pairs his fastball with a potentially plus slider and an average to plus changeup. His stuff was crisper and firmer as an amateur than in his pro debut. He would tip his changeup by slowing his arm, and he struggled to locate his slider. Amateur scouts saw a potential front-line starter, but pro scouts saw a middle-of-the-rotation candidate. The latter group also was less impressed with his athleticism. Appel should move quickly, but the Astros have no need to rush him. He'll start the 2014 season at high Class A Lancaster or Double-A Corpus Christi, depending on how spring training goes. No one would be surprised to see him in Houston by the end of the year.
Appel picked up where he left off last year, after he turned down $3.8 million from the Pirates as the eighth overall pick. As a senior, he fine-tuned his stuff and graduated with a degree in management science and engineering. He shows everything scouts look for in a frontline pitcher. He's 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds with a clean delivery, and he is a solid athlete who played basketball in high school. Appel's fastball sits in the mid-90s and gets as high as 98 mph, and he holds his velocity deep into games. His slider is a plus pitch that generates swings and misses with its sharp, late break. Under Stanford pitching coach Rusty Filter--who was Stephen Strasburg's pitching coach at San Diego State--Appel has gotten a little more downhill with his fastball and has improved his changeup as a senior, and it should be at least an average third offering. Appel has improved every year at Stanford and dominated as a senior, and he should move quickly through the minor leagues.
It's never happened before, but this year the NFL draft and the MLB draft may feature players picked first-overall from the same school. Quarterback Andrew Luck already went first to the Colts. His buddy Appel, who has Houston roots, is in the running to go first this year to the Astros. Appel has the ingredients to be a frontline starter. He has a pro-ready body at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds to go along with his mid-90s fastball that touches 98. He throws a hard slider that has the potential to be an out pitch and his changeup has improved. He is a solid athlete who played basketball in high school and is delivery is relatively clean. The knock on Appel is that he hasn't dominated like most highly-ranked pitchers have in the past. Hitters frequently square him up because, even with his arsenal, he's easy to see with his slow delivery, long arm action in the back, and a fastball that doesn't have a lot of movement.
Minor League Top Prospects
The difficulties Appel experienced in 2014, his first full season after he was selected No. 1 overall in the 2013 draft, have been well documented. But he has rebounded in the last year and made steady progress to reach Triple-A in June. His year was also highlighted by an appearance in the Futures Game. With Fresno, Appel had mixed results, at times looking like an elite starter, while struggling mightily in other appearances. At his best, he has three pitches that can be plus offerings. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and routinely touches higher. His changeup and slider are especially tough on batters when he's able to locate them. But his overall command is inconsistent, and it is when he isn't hitting his spots that he falls into trouble because his delivery features little deception. Appel has a good understanding of his craft and a strong, durable pitcher's frame. While his progress has been slower than many had hoped when drafted, he should soon be ready to help the Astros in the major leagues.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Slider in the Houston Astros in 2014