If you've been paying attention, you already know. Coming off an excellent junior season at Stanford University, Mark Appel was the consensus top pitching talent available in last year's draft, and was widely expected to go to the Houston Astros with the first pick.
The Astros decided to pass rather than face the contract demands of Appel and his agent, Scott Boras. The Twins, and five other teams, did the same before the right-hander ended up going to the Pirates with the No. 8 pick. Pittsburgh offered $3.8 million, exceeding the slotted amount ($2.9M) by a significant margin, but still Appel turned them down and elected to return to Stanford for his senior year. He was the only player among 31 first-round picks that did not sign.
It was a gamble, to be sure, but one that should pay off handsomely. In his third straight season as the University's Friday night ace, Appel stayed healthy and put up monster numbers, going 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 130-to-23 K/BB ratio in 14 starts. Over 106 1/3 innings, he held opposing hitters to a .203 batting average and allowed just two home runs. As MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo puts it: "A year ago, there may have been whispers about why he wasn't dominant, given his pure stuff. There has been none of that in 2013."
And so the 21-year-old finds himself in a familiar position: He's got the credentials of a No. 1 pick, but Houston once again holds the cards. With college officially in the rearview mirror, Appel has much less leverage than he did a year ago but it's a safe bet Boras will still be prepared to play hardball.
Since there are few questions about his playing ability, Appel's only chance to slip to fourth would seem to stem from his signability. Would the Twins be the team to step up and take him if he's there? They haven't historically been the type of organization that will aggressively go over slot to sign a high-profile name in the draft, but then again, they need pitching and this kid is a hell of a talent.
Who Could He Be?
At 6'5" and 215 pounds, Appel is lean and athletic with a clean, repeatable delivery. His featured offering is a power fastball, which he routinely throws in the mid-90s; it's also been said that he possesses the Verlanderian ability to reach back for a little more when he needs it, approaching triple digits. In addition to the heater, Appel offers a plus slider (described by some as a slurve) and a developing changeup with great potential.
The fact that he dropped to eighth in last year's draft suggests that not all teams were sold on him to the extent they'd throw cost into the wind. Seems like that would never happen with a Justin Verlander- or Stephen Strasburg- type. Then again, Appel only further cemented his elite status with a tremendous senior year, in which he handled pressure and huge pitch counts (he threw 149 pitches in one April outing) with aplomb. He's got the makings of a top-tier MLB hurler.
How Soon Could He Be Playing In Target Field?
Appel is more highly regarded than Kevin Gausman or Michael Wacha, two prestigious college pitchers drafted in last year's first round who are already in the majors. It has been stated that Appel is "the lone player in this draft who could be ready for the majors right away," although the Twins -- in no rush at this point -- would surely start him in the minors. That said, it'd be no shock if he were sent directly to Double-A, putting himself in the mix for a potential debut later this year or early in 2014.
Of course, that's a best-case scenario that assumes Appel experiences no trouble adapting to the pro ranks. And of course, given the presence of Boras, prolonged contract negotiations could be another factor delaying his timeline; as a college senior, the July 12th signing deadline doesn't apply to Appel.
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Messed Up Because…
The slotted value of the No. 1 pick is $7.7 million, so Appel and Boras likely have their sights set on a signing bonus in that region, if not higher. The fourth pick, meanwhile, carries an assigned value of $4.5 million. It seems likely that the Twins would have to healthily surpass that figure in order to get Appel signed -- keep in mind that he turned down $3.8 million last year and is coming off a much better season.
Under the new draft rules, each team has a bonus pool of money that they can use to sign all of their draft picks in the first 10 rounds, with stiff penalties incurred for going over. According to Baseball America, the Twins have a total bonus pool of $8.2 million for this year's draft.
Taking the aggressive steps necessary to bring Appel on board would probably leave the Twins with very little money to spend on their remaining nine selections, lessening their chances of hitting on draft picks in the rest of the high rounds.
Given the depth of their success in last year's draft, which yielded not only Byron Buxton but also thriving prospects like Jose Berrios, Adam Walker, Tyler Duffey and D.J. Baxendale, would it be wise for the Twins to essentially put all their eggs in one basket?
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Nailed It Because...
He's worth it. Appel might not be an uber-prospect of the Strasburg ilk but he has the hard-throwing ace profile that the Twins have desperately sought to add to their pipeline. By joining Alex Meyer, Kyle Gibson and Trevor May, Appel would give the Twins high-level pitching depth that would become the envy of many organizations, and would significantly accelerate their rebuild timeline.
Unfortunately, for that very reason, it seems incredibly unlikely he'll still be there for the taking by the time that fourth pick rolls around.
This concludes the Twins MLB Draft Profile series. We hope you learned a few things to help prepare you for the next few days! You can find the rest of the entries below:
- Monday, May 20 -- Sean Manaea, LHP
- Tuesday, May 21 -- Austin Meadows, OF
- Wednesday, May 22 -- Trey Ball, OF
- Thursday, May 23 -- Ryan Stanek, RHP
- Friday, May 24 -- Clint Frazier, OF
- Tuesday, May 28 -- Reese McGuire, C
- Wednesday, May 29 -- Braden Shipley, RHP
- Thursday, May 30 -- Kohl Stewart, RHP
- Friday, May 31 -- Kris Bryant, 3B/1B
- Monday, June 3 -- Jonathan Gray, RHP
- Tuesday, June 4 -- Minnesotans to Watch