MLB Houston Astros

5 Reasons Why Houston Astros Should Select Mark Appel at No. 1

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5 Reasons the Houston Astros Should Take Mark Appel No. 1

Rick Osentoski-USA Today Sports

The Houston Astros have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft, and do they ever need it. It’s only two months into the season, and the Astros are already 16 games out of first place in the American League West with a record of 14-33. Regardless of who they draft at No. 1, they aren’t going to have any impact on this current season. The Astros have made a conscious decision to scale their salaries back in the short term in order to develop talent for the long term. In fact, this year’s entire Astros team combined (roughly $25 million) will make less than New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez ($29 million).

Obviously, the Astros have to consider the sign-ability of a player if they are selecting at No. 1. That could work against Stanford ace Mark Appel, who turned down $3.8 million from the Pittsburgh Pirates when he was drafted No. 8 overall in last year’s draft. He has super agent Scott Boras in his corner, and that could very well scare away a team who is attempting to be frugal in the interim.

The Astros have other options like Oklahoma’s 6-foot-5, 239-pound flame-thrower Jonathan Gray or San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant. They could be cheaper, but aren’t the polished product that Appel appears to be.

In the end, if a team is really committed to getting better, they have to draft the best player available. For me, that’s Appel. So here are five reasons why the Astros should draft him No. 1 overall.

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5.) Experience

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Mark Appel has pitched the Friday game (marquee match-up) for Stanford for the last three years. As a result, he has taken on every other team’s ace, and more often than not, come out victorious. He’s pitched against quality line-ups in the Pac-12, and still has incredible numbers (9-4 record, 2.20 ERA and 121 K’s in 98 IP). You know what you are going to get with Appel because we’ve seen him do it for four years in pressure situations.

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4.) Size

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At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Appel has the prototypical size of a frontline starter in the majors. He’s long, has great arm action and is an imposing figure on the mound. Although his mechanics aren’t perfectly clean, he should be able to smooth out any hitches before they could lead to injury problems.

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3.) He's a Known Entity

Jake Roth-USA Today Sports

All too often, major league scouts over think the obvious. They get cute and try to pick a guy who has upside that nobody really expected them to pick. However, when you’re picking at the top of the draft, you need to be right None of the top high school players have the experience and pedigree that Appel has. High school players can turn out to be great players, but it’s a bigger risk. Appel is the safe choice, and at this point, the Astros need to start moving in the right direction. He’ll do that for them.

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2.) His Stuff

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As you’d expect, Appel has an array of pitches he can throw in any count. His fastball touches 96-97 mph, and can be dominant at times. He has a plus slider that he throws to both lefties and righties at 85-88 mph. Although he doesn’t use it frequently, he also has a nice changeup that gives him three quality pitches to take to the mound with him. He’s got the stuff to be a great major league starter who can get through line-up three times.

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1.) The Astros Need Pitching

Jake Roth-USA Today Sports

As the old saying goes, “good pitching beats good hitting.” And right now, the Astros don’t have very good pitching. If they want to get out of the cellar at any point in the near future, they need to make a commitment to getting better pitching. Although their offense isn’t spectacular, their pitching is downright atrocious. Right now, they are last in the major leagues with a team ERA of 5.37 — more than a half a run worse than the next closest team. Batters are hitting a ridiculous .292 against their pitching, putting extra pressure on their offense to keep up.

So, if the Astros want to find the easiest path to becoming relevant again, they need to start on the mound. While Appel isn’t a Stephen Strasburg-type talent, he can win in the major leagues with his make-up and stuff. One player can’t fix an organizational problem, but you’ve got to start somewhere.