Whether it was a financial issue, a slight against the Pirates, or the draw of graduating from an elite university with a degree, Mark Appel has decided to go back to Standford and not sign with the Pirates.
With this decision, it now makes sense as to why the first seven teams in the draft passed on Appel. Despite receiving a first overall projection, Appel's stock fell dramatically and he ended up with the Pirates at number eight.
His reaction? Bland and somewhat cold. The statement Appel released made no mention of his excitement to be part of a major league organization, much less the team who selected him. Most people, including me, rolled their eyes at the statement, believing this was a negotiating move by Scott Boras.
In the end, however, Appel really didn't want to be here.
Minutes after the signing deadline on Friday, Neal Huntington released a statement:
"We were unable to reach an agreement with first round selection Mark Appel and bring him into our already strong organization. Our final offer exceeded the available bonus pool money and was essentially up to the last dollar we could offer prior to falling into the second tier penalty which would have resulted in the loss of a first round draft selection.While, as we have shown in past years, we are willing to be aggressive with our financial offer, we simply did not feel it was in the best interest of the organization to forfeit our first round selection in the 2013 amateur draft." -Huntington (rumbunter.com)
A stellar move, to say the least, by Huntington. Appel had a solid junior season at Standford, but he is not a "can't miss" talent. Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia and Gerrit Cole are all head and shoulders above Appel, in my opinion. In fact, you could make a case that the Pirates dodged a bullet with this player.
I'll admit, when the Pirates first selected Mark Appel, I was excited. However, the more I read, and the more video I saw of him, the less attractive he became as an elite arm. By the time the Pirates were in their final week of negotiations, I was almost hoping Appel wouldn't sign.
First of all, throw out the numbers. I don't care if Appel was facing the toughest conference in the nation, there are still college kids in each lineup that are planning life without baseball. You have to look at the individual and ignore the results because professional players won't miss on pitches college kids are missing.
This past April, Kyle Boddy did a breakdown of Appel's biomechanics during his start against Washington. Boddy concluded that while Appel's mechanics didn't throw up any major red flags, they were far from perfect.
Appel has a tendency to over stride which makes the front leg deny the upper body from getting full extension through the pitch. The result means a lot of pitches up in the zone. It also eliminates the downward plane Appel could use from his 6'5 frame and forces his back leg to drag more than usual. I.E. he is slowing himself down.
Despite having the capability to throw a 96-98 mph fastball, Appel has had to slow it down to 92-94 to throw strikes. Also, you have to consider that his four seam fastball shows little movement. When you compare that to Gerrit Cole -who throws 100 on a regular basis with some boring action on the fastball- it is easy to see who has the higher ceiling.
Another question is his durability. While Appel is 6'5, he is 200 pounds, giving up 25 pounds to Gerrit Cole who is one inch shorter. He appeared to have a healthy season at Stanford this year, however, he still threw 130 innings in 16 starts including a 149 pitch game against Oregon. When you consider his breaking pitch is the slider -more violent on the arm than the curveball- there has to be some worry about how he will hold up for a full season his senior year.
Appel will be going back to Stanford for a number of reasons, but if money is one of them, he made the wrong decision. There is no way he gets selected higher than 8th next June. The risk of injury and repeated success are too high to think otherwise.
The Pirates weren't able to sign one of the top pitchers in this year's draft class. But they gained the ninth overall pick for next year which should be a slightly better class overall. Signing Appel would've given them another talented arm in the system, but losing his rights isn't as big of a deal as people might think. His mechanics and heavy workload at Stanford are big enough risks that it may end up working out for the better in Pittsburgh.