Not this time.
The hard-throwing pitcher from Stanford was taken by the Astros with the No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball draft Thursday night, exactly where many expected him to end up a year ago.
“No matter what happened in the draft,” Appel said, “I knew I had done everything that was in my control to put myself in the best situation possible.”
Appel was considered a possible first selection last year by the Astros, but they instead chose 17-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico. Appel, who grew up in Houston before moving to California when he was 12, slid to Pittsburgh at No. 8 last year but turned down a $3.8 million offer and returned to Stanford for his senior season.
The move paid off.
After going 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 106 1-3 innings this season for the Cardinal, the 6-foot-4 right-hander is expected to fetch about double the amount he passed up from the Pirates.
“I don’t think I necessarily had an end goal in mind when I turned down the Pirates’ offer,” said Appel, who complements his mid-90s (mph) fastball with a nasty slider and improving changeup. “My goals were to finish my degree and become a better baseball player and better person and better teammate. As far as that goes, I think I accomplished those things.
And, a year later, the Astros have a potential future ace.
“I talked to him and told him: ‘Welcome home,’” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “It’s a kid’s dream to go first in the country, first in the draft and to be taken by your hometown team. It just doesn’t get any better than that. It’s also really a great opportunity for us.”
The deadline for teams to sign draft picks is July 12, but that doesn’t apply to Appel because he is a college senior.
“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, so I assume it will be a fairly straightforward discussion and that he’ll sign sometime this summer.”
The draft, which is held over three days and 40 rounds, started Thursday night with the first two rounds at MLB Network Studios. Nine prospects attended and sat in makeshift dugouts as they waited for their names to be called by Commissioner Bud Selig in an event that has grown dramatically over the last few years.
Only one of the players on site — Oklahoma high school catcher Jon Denney — was not drafted during the first night. The draft was scheduled to resume at 12:30 p.m. Friday via conference calls with teams.