Pirates take Stanford's Appel

Mark Appel

In late April the Pittsburgh Steelers were surprised when Stanford's David DeCastro slipped to the them in the first round of the NFL draft. Lightning struck twice when Stanford ace Mark Appel slipped to the Pittsburgh Pirates with the eighth overall selection in the annual First-Year Player Draft.

Appel was mentioned as a possible top pick, but fell to eighth, and the Pirates grabbed him.

"We were very pleased that he was still sitting there when it was our selection," said Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington. "We don't know why [other teams] chose players over him; different teams have different interpretations of players."

As a junior this year at Stanford University, Appel went 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 15 starts, including five complete games. The right-hander was named a First-Team All American by Collegiate Baseball, a First-Team All Pac 12 selection, the 2012 Stanford Regional Most Outstanding Player and as a semifinalist for both the Dick Howser Trophy and Golden Spikes Award.

Appel's 127 strikeouts ranked first among all Pac-12 pitchers, while he also struck out at least 10 batters in eight of his 10 starts. He also became the first Stanford 10-game winner since Jeff Gilmore in 2005.

Appel found himself tumbling down the order, presumably on account of signability concerns. He was hampered by the fact that he was not a no-doubt-about-it No. 1 pick. The new collective bargaining agreement has required that teams operate under a draft spending limit and it's not likely that the teams who passed Appel wanted to eat up any of their allocated dollars by dealing with his agent Scott Boras.

Despite the new mid-July deadline to sign draftees, Huntington never allowed that to factor into the decision to select Appel.

"Our worst-case scenario is the ninth pick next June," said Huntington, referring to a bonus pick for an unsigned first-round pick. "Best-case scenario, he joins Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon and all the pitching in our system. I'm optimistic we have a legitimate shot to sign him."

In a statement released by the Pirates, Appel said, "I'm currently concentrating on winning a national championship and finishing my academic endeavors at Stanford. I will address the possibility of a professional career in due time."

The lure of adding Appel to their pitching arsenal was too great for the Pirates who added him to a pitching-rich minor-league system that already includes last year's overall No. 1 Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, the No. 2 pick from the 2010 draft.

"We stayed true to our agenda. 'Best player available.' We've done that," Huntington said. "Stuff, size, strength, durability ... Mark's the package."

Here is the Scout.com draft scouting report link on Appel:

Physical Description

Appel is about the closest thing you'll find to a prototype for a durable, front end type starter when it comes to body type. He's extra long, with particularly long legs, and has good strength and athleticism as well. Appel also has some room to grow in his upper body as he matures. He has noticeable muscularity and strength in his legs and that's where he generates most of his power. This is a very strong, well proportioned athlete with a frame seemingly designed for pitching.

Mechanics

Repeatable is the key word when it comes to Appel's delivery. He appears to have no problem duplicating his mechanics pitch after pitch, and despite his huge velocity, seems to have no signs of being erratic. He's not overthrowing and his lightning fast arm and lower half drive are doing all the work. Appel has a long, clean arm action and gets outstanding extension toward the plate. He dips on his back leg somewhat, but he does a fantastic job of exploding off his back leg and staying on top consistently.

Fastball

How well he maintains his velocity will be a big question for Appel. His velocity fluctuated at times during his sophomore season, but if he can stay anywhere near the numbers he's putting up on radar guns with Team USA he's going to pitching in rarified air for a starting pitcher. Appel worked at 95-98 mph with the USA squad and produced the velocity with relative ease. Over the course of a 100 pitch outing it might be more reasonable to expect him to sit around 93-96 mph. But, right now he's able to pump 97 after 97 on the gun with exploding life through the zone. Working with his fastball alone, considering his good command, Appel is capable of missing bats and dominating a lineup. This is as explosive a fastball as you'll find at any level.

Slider

There are a lot of so-called sliders out there in the baseball world, but few actually fit the definition. Appel's breaking ball is one of those true sliders out there. He throws it at 84-86 mph and it projects to be a potential plus-plus pitch at the professional level. It has the appearance of a fastball out of his hand and shows sharp downward bite. He commands it well and is capable of throwing it for strikes where necessary.

Changeup

In his shorter stints with the Team USA squad we haven't seen Appel's third pitch too often. But, that doesn't mean it doesn't have the makings of a quality offering. He throws it around 82-84 mph so the differential is absolutely there. He's comfortable throwing it for strikes and it looks like it could be a solid-average offering in the pros.

Summation

Appel has the stuff and profile that number one overall picks are made of. The body type, the mound presence, and the downright electric raw stuff are all there. And, he's also compiled a pretty strong track record of success. If he's healthy and continues showing this type of stuff, he's a frontrunner for the top overall pick come next June.

The Pirates selected Barrett Barnes with the No. 45 pick in Compensatory Round A. The Pirates were awarded the compensatory pick with the loss of Ryan Doumit, who signed with the Minnesota Twins. Barnes hit .325 as an outfielder with Texas Tech this season. He was not drafted out of high school, but he has plenty of potential to play a corner outfield spot and hit for power.

Barnes is a toolsy outfielder with above-average speed and an arm that is average at best. There doesn't seem to be a consensus as to whether he'll be able to stick in centerfield, although it seems that even those that see him as a potential major league centerfielder don't see him as being a plus defender there. He may end up being one of those tweener types that is a plus defender in left field, but who can't quite handle center.

Barnes' bat gets good reviews, as he is seen as having good bat speed that should translate as he moves to the professional level. There are questions about Barnes' ability to consistently make contact as he moves up, which would mean elevated strikeout levels that would limit what he can do as far as his batting average goes, but Barnes has shown good patience at the college level, so there's the potential that his walk rate could keep his OBP respectable. BA rates Barnes as having plus power, while ESPN's future projection on Barnes is that he's just going to have average power...the team that snags Barnes is likely going to be a team that views him as a potential power bat.

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