MLB Arizona Diamondbacks

Pirates Draft Top Rated Mark Appel With Eighth Pick in 2012 Draft

I don’t think anybody can say they saw that coming.

With the eighth overall pick in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates picked Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, the top rated player in the draft by many outlets.

The main factor in Appel’s fall from the top is superagent Scott Boras and his likely contract demands for the 20-year-old.

With the new draft rules, the Pirates have about $6.56 million to spend on their first 10 rounds of draft picks this year. To put that into perspective, 2011 first overall selection Gerrit Cole received $8 million alone.

Appel will probably demand more than half of that pool, though the eighth pick in the draft was given a $2.9 million slot value by the MLB. The Pirates can exceed that slot number for Appel’s bonus, but exceeding the $6.56 million pool cap brings some stiff penalties.

If the team exceeds the pool number by 0-5%, they are eliminated from the lottery that assigns picks previously forfeited by other teams that exceed their own pools, in addition to a 75% tax on the amount they went over. Going over the cap by more than five percent results in a 100% on that amount and the loss of next year’s first round pick.

Exceeding the cap by more results in even stiffer penalties.

Now that the negative is out of the way, let’s take a look at the good part of the pick: Mark Appel is a potential ace.

A potential future rotation of Jameson Taillon / Gerrit Cole / Mark Appel / James McDonald isn’t far-fetched at this point. That could be something similar to what we’ve seen recently with the Philadelphia Phillies’ Roy Halladay / Cliff Lee / Cole Hamels / Roy Oswalt 1-2-3-4 punch, only the Pirates will have home grown three of the four pitchers rather than acquiring them via trade or free agency, while the Phillies have only grown Hamels. Plus, McDonald would be by far the oldest of the group at age 29 if this happens in two years.

In the system, Appel would probably be the team’s third-best prospect behind Taillon and Cole, and could be one of the top 20 prospects in the entire league.

The 6’5″ righty’s fastball has hit 99 mph and usually sits around 93-95. He’s got a sick hard slider/curve as a strikeout pitch and a change up that could become an average to plus pitch.

The best part? Appel has drawn comparisons to Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

That rotation of a “Verlander/Josh Beckett mix”, a fireballer with a power slider, a watered down Verlander and the MLB’s second ERA leader could be pretty filthy.

The soon-to-be 21-year-old has good control and command and is expected to be the first player from this draft to reach the major leagues.

Appel has gone 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA at Stanford this season and will continue pitching for the team in the playoffs. If he reaches a deal with the Pirates before the playoffs end he’ll likely stop pitching for Stanford, but that situation is unlikely with Scott Boras leading negotiations.

This year, the signing deadline has been moved up an entire month, so the Bucs will have to get a deal done with Appel by July 13, I believe.

The team drafted Texas Tech outfielder Barnett Barnes with the 45th pick tonight, a pick they received for Ryan Doumit leaving via free agency.

To keep it quick, he’s a speedy corner outfielder with a good bat and the ability to draw walks. He likely won’t get his full slot value ($1.136 million), so the pick could help make some space for the Pirates to sign Appel.

With the first pick in the draft, the Houston Astros took Puerto Rican short stop Carlos Correa, before the Minnesota Twins took center fielder Byron Buxton. The Seattle Mariners then took catcher Mike Zunino at number three.

Follow Troy on Twitter @TroyPfaff for more Pittsburgh Pirates news