Astros' Appel pick leads way in pitching-heavy Draft
Astros' Appel pick leads way in pitching-heavy Draft
By Spencer Fordin
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The Astros waited a year and still got their arm. Houston, picking at the top of the First-Year Player Draft for the second consecutive season, wound up with prized right-hander Mark Appel on Thursday, nabbing a talent that many thought might go first overall in 2012.
The Astros opted for prep shortstop Carlos Correa with the top pick last season, and Appel fell all the way to the eighth pick in the Draft. But he didn't sign with the Pirates. Appel went right back to Stanford and right back into the Draft, and his decision paid off Thursday when Houston called his name.
Appel, who grew up in Houston before moving to California, logged a 10-4 record with a 2.12 ERA in his senior season at Stanford. The 21-year-old is regarded as a polished arm who can move quickly through the farm system, and Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow was thrilled to get him.
"I'm very confident that Mark Appel is going to put on an Astros uniform," Luhnow said. "He's from here, he wants to play here, he's been selected first in the Draft. All the indicators are pointing in the same direction. I would assume it would be a fairly straightforward discussion and he'll sign sometime this summer and get out and start pitching in our Minor League system."
Appel, the top pick in a pitching-heavy Draft, embodied a few trends on Thursday. Fifteen pitchers went in the first round, and six college pitchers were taken in the top 20 picks. Three prep pitchers went in the top 10 selections Thursday, but only three more prep arms went by the end of the round.
But the Draft wasn't all arms. Nine of the top 15 picks, in fact, were spent on position players. There was only one junior college player taken in the top 33 picks Thursday. Eight college position players and nine prep players went in the first round, providing an interesting mix of talent.
Appel wasn't really linked to the Astros before the Draft, but the first real surprise came with the second pick. The Cubs, linked to either Appel or Jonathan Gray in the weeks before the Draft, instead came away with Kris Bryant, a power-hitting third baseman from the University of San Diego.
Bryant, a first-team All-American as a sophomore, came back for an even bigger year as a junior. Bryant batted .329 with 31 home runs in 62 games this season. Some Draft insiders are convinced he'll be an outfielder in the Major Leagues, but Bryant said the Cubs will let him play at third base.
The Rockies, picking third overall, nabbed Gray, taking a player some analysts considered to be the top arm available in the Draft. Gray, who had been drafted twice previously without signing either time, turned heads this year by posting a 10-2 record with a 1.59 ERA for the University of Oklahoma.
The run on college talent was interrupted at No. 4, when the Twins selected prep pitcher Kohl Stewart as a building block. Cleveland, picking at No. 5, chose another prep star in Georgia outfielder Clint Frazier, who was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year earlier this week.
Frazier, one of several draftees in attendance, spoke about what the moment meant to him.
"It's just great to be up here with my family and with some longtime friends I've been playing with for the last year. It's definitely an awesome experience to go through," Frazier said of the Draft. "It's kind of nerve-racking going up to it, but when I heard my name selected, it was all worth it."
The rest of the top 10 brought a few interesting names. Colin Moran -- the last of five players listed as candidates for the top overall pick -- was selected sixth overall by the Marlins. Moran, a third baseman from the University of North Carolina, appealed to the Marlins as the best player available.
"He is one of the premier college bats in the country," said Stan Meek, the Marlins' vice president of scouting. "We really thought he would go in front of us. We were obviously thrilled that he got down to us. He fits a need, but also fits us from an ability standpoint. There is a lot of history of success with the bat, and [he's] able to play third. He fits a great spot for us. It's really a perfect fit."
The Red Sox went for prep southpaw Trey Ball -- one of just three left-handers taken in the first round -- with the eighth pick, and Kansas City selected Hunter Dozier ninth overall. Dozier, a shortstop from Stephen F. Austin University, was considered a bit of a surprise. In fact, MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo had him listed at No. 46 in his top 100 prospects.
The top 10 rounded out with a pair of prep players. Pittsburgh -- using the compensatory selection it earned by failing to sign Appel last season -- took outfielder Austin Meadows at No. 9, and then the Blue Jays went for right-hander Phillip Bickford from Oaks Christian High School in California.
Two players -- Dominic Smith and J.P. Crawford -- celebrated an interesting milestone. Smith and Crawford, friends from California, both polished their games by participating in a local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) league and by working out at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton. Smith, selected 11th overall by the Mets, and Crawford, picked 16th by the Phillies, were both in attendance Thursday.
"Right now, I'm just speechless," said Smith, who got to meet former Mets star and fellow Los Angeles native Darryl Strawberry at the Draft. "I just want to thank my mom. I want to thank my dad. I want to thank my family friends. I want to thank God as well. ... Without them, I wouldn't be here. This is an unbelievable moment. I'm excited. I'm happy. I can't stop shaking. I can't stop smiling."
The Draft eventually rolled through two Competitive Balance rounds and the second round on Thursday, with 73 players selected. Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. ET. And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.
Third base made the biggest splash on Thursday. Four college players who man the hot corner were taken in the first 30 picks on Thursday. D.J. Peterson, a slugger from New Mexico, went 12th overall to Seattle, and the Yankees took Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo at No. 26.
Peterson's brother -- prep shortstop Dustin Peterson -- was taken in the second round by San Diego.
One of the Draft's most interesting players went off the board at No. 15 to Arizona. Nevada's Braden Shipley, who started at shortstop as a freshman before moving to the mound as a sophomore, went 7-3 with a 2.77 ERA en route to being named the Mountain West Co-Pitcher of the Year in 2013.
Only one junior college player -- shortstop Tim Anderson -- was taken in the first round at No. 17 overall Thursday. Anderson hailed from East Central Community College in Missouri and was drafted by the White Sox.
Prep players dominated the back end of the first round, with catcher Nick Ciuffo going to Tampa Bay at No. 21 and Hunter Harvey, son of former big league closer Bryan Harvey, getting selected at No. 22 by the Orioles. Oakland continued the trend by taking prep outfielder Billy McKinney at No. 24.
A few teams -- St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Texas -- made a second pick near the end of the first round. The Cardinals wound up with another pitcher in prep arm Rob Kaminski. Tampa Bay took college arm Ryne Stanek with its second pick, and the Rangers nabbed prep shortstop Travis Demeritte.
The Yankees closed out the first round with a pair of solid picks. New York selected college outfielder Aaron Judge and prep arm Ian Clarkin to close out the round. Houston, after making waves with Appel, later added UC Irvine right-hander Andrew Thurman with the top pick in the second round.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.