Mark Appel and His 9.74 ERA Promoted To Corpus Christi

The biggest story leading up to the 2013 MLB Draft was where Mark Appel would end up. One year after not signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates, several teams were praying that Appel would drop to them. Now, one year removed from that draft, those teams are extremely relieved to have not had the chance to take him.

Appel’s 2013 numbers were average, though nothing to be excited about, and certainly not as good as anticipated. Still, a 3.70 ERA for a pitcher adjusting to the professional game isn’t bad. Since being promoted to high-A Lancaster though, Appel has been catastrophically bad.

“Catastrophically bad” might not even do Appel’s season justice. Heralded as a “future ace” since high school, no one could have predicted that Appel would have a whopping 9.74 ERA in his first full professional season. Allowing 48 runs over 44 innings, one could actually make the case that Appel has been the worst pitcher taken in the first round of the 2013 draft. Here’s how his career numbers stack up to the other pitchers taken in the first round:

-Mark Appel (Houston Astros) Level: Single A Lancaster Stats: 7.0 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 1.2 HR/9
-Jonathan Gray (Colorado Rockies) Level: Double A Tulsa Stats: 3.23 ERA, 9.4 K/9, .6 HR/9
-Kohl Stewart (Minnesota Twins) Level: Single A Cedar Rapids Stats: 2.42 ERA, 7.3 K/9, .3 HR/9
-Trey Ball (Boston Red Sox) Level: Single A Greenville Stats: 5.85 ERA, 6.3 K/9, .8 HR/9
-Braden Shipley (Arizona Diamondbacks) Level: High A Visalia Stats: 4.35 ERA, 9.1 K/9, .7 HR/9
-Chris Anderson (Los Angeles Dodgers) Level: High A Rancho Cucamonga Stats: 3.92 ERA, 9.7 K/9, .7 HR/9
-Marco Gonzales (Saint Louis Cardinals) Level: Triple A Memphis Stats: 2.38 ERA, 9.1 K/9, .6 HR/9
-Jonathan Crawford (San Francisco Giants) Level: Single A West Michigan Stats: 2.8 ERA, 6.8 K/9, .2 HR/9
-Hunter Harvey (Baltimore Orioles) Level: Single A Delmarva Stats: 2.7 ERA, 11.1 K/9, .4 HR/9
-Alex Gonzalez (Texas Rangers) Level: Double A Frisco Stats: 3.01 ERA, 7.0 K/9, .3 HR/9

ERA, hr rate, 7th in k9

Appel was the first pitcher taken in the 2013 draft. Comparing his numbers to the other pitchers taken in the first round, Mark has the worst ERA, and the worst home run rate. He is also seventh in strikeouts per 9 innings. Appel was the first pitcher taken in the draft, but his numbers rank him at the bottom among pitchers in the first round.

The reason for showing those stats is not to call Appel a bust, especially since there are countless other means of comparing Appel and the other pitchers. Instead, the point of bringing those statistics to light is to call into question the reason for the Astros promoting the former Stanford Cardinal.

Appel had allowed seven runs in starts against the Inland Empire 66ers and Visalia Rawhide before giving up just two runs and striking out a season high seven against the Stockton Ports. Does one solid start merit a promotion?

Take a look at the other happenings in the Astros’ organization: Carlos Correa will likely be on the shelf long-term with a fractured leg, essentially adding a year to the rebuilding plans of the ‘Stros. Also, Brady Aiken and Jacob Nix did not sign, and now due to that the MLBPA is gearing up to file a grievance against Jeff Luhnow and the Astros for manipulating the system. 2014 thus far has been a lost year for an organization that can’t afford any more lost years than they have already had.

In theory, what the Astros could be doing by promoting Mark Appel is embellishing a positive the best they can. Luhnow and the front office could believe that they need something, anything, to point to as a success. Leaving Appel in Lancaster where he belongs screams failure, and the Astros front office needs to cool down their increasingly hot seats. Just a theory.

Before being drafted, Mark Appel was regarded as the next Mark Prior (minus the injuries). Scouts agreed that he was the most polished pitcher in the draft. So far, he has done nothing to show that he is capable of living up to half of the hype that surrounded him. Whatever the reason for his promotion, Luhnow has a lot riding on the shoulders of the once “future ace.”


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