BLUF: Potential front of the rotation starter and very likely one of the top two picks in the 2012 draft.
The Player: Mark Appel (RHP, Stanford University) – A 15th round pick by the Detroit Tigers in 2009, Appel honored his commitment to Stanford despite a strong push by the Tigers late in the signing period. Pitched 38 innings (24 games, three starts) as a freshman, allowing 44 hits and 19 walks while striking out 26 batters. Moved to the rotation for his sophomore year in 2011 and finished with a 6-7 mark in 17 starts. Allowed 114 hits and 29 walks in 110.1 innings, striking out 86 along the way. Showed improved stuff throughout the year and really peaked during the summer with Team USA and in the Cape Cod League. Appel has dominated so far this spring, allowing just 17 hits in 31 innings with a four-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Basis of Report: Personal Observation (2011 Cape Cod League), Industry Contacts
Body (6-5, 200): Good athlete with outstanding size for a pitcher. Has good width at the top of his frame, extending straight down to his waste. Long levers with solid coordination. Projection for added strength and mass without compromising his coordination and/or flexibility.
Delivery/Mechanics: Good, clean arm action. Arm angle will vary at times, but generally works in a typical ¾ slot. Works well throughout with good extension out front. Will cut himself off on his change-up, coming up a little short on his follow through. Coils at the balance point and then has appearance of unleashing arms and legs at the plate. Good drop and drive that leads to consistent movement down the plane of the mound. Will get caught leaning too far back and working up hill at times but has showed improved control of his in 2012. Finishes facing the plate with balance.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 99, Low – 91, Average – 94-95, Grade – 70/80
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 97, Low 91, Average 93-95, Grade – 70/80
Fastball (FB) Movement: Has life in the strike zone and is difficult to square up. Ball jumps out of his hand. When his arm slot dips, he can get some arm-side movement that gets in hard on right-handed hitters. Good angle to the plate compensates for lack of vertical movement. When he elevates, ball will show some “hop” and consistently miss the barrel of the bat. Consistently imparting movement as desired would be a big step forward. Grade – 60/70
Overall Fastball: A chance for elite velocity with deception and movement. FB is good enough right now to miss bats in the upper minor leagues. With only minor gains in consistency and strength, FB could be an utterly dominating pitch. Has shown some ability to cut the ball and could add this to his arsenal with more consistency. Grade – 70/80
Slider (SL): Classic slider with more horizontal than vertical break, sitting 82-83 mph. Tight spin and he stays on top of it well, giving it consistent late bite. Shows increased willingness to set up FB by using SL early in counts. Must learn to finish pitch out of the strike zone as a chase pitch. Some scouts expressed a desire to see him throw it a little harder to differentiate from his CH. Grade – 50/60
Change-up (CH): Has fastball arm speed but stops arm extension a little short out front, almost as if he doesn’t completely trust the grip to slow it down. At its best, CH has average fade and can be a weapon against left-handed hitters. Must keep down in the zone more consistently. Shows good feel for the pitch and has already improved it markedly since high school. Grade – 40/60
Control: Throws strikes consistently and easily with FB. Generally works in the bottom third of the zone. Repeats delivery well for a big man and projects to continue throwing strikes long term. Generally throws strikes with CH and SL, though not as consistently as with FB. Grade – 50/70
Command: Feel for the strike zone at a young age and very good coordination of his lanky body gives good projection for improved command. Can work FB to both sides of the plate with ease and will paint the corners in spurts. Has ability to elevate FB but doesn’t always stay in the top of the zone, running it too high to be a useful pitch at times. SL command lags significantly behind and must improve. Grade – 40/60
Summation: Potential for three pitches that grade at least 60 on the 20-80 scale. Has command projection with all three pitches. Solid understanding of the nuances of the game. Quick feet on pickoff move and gets off the mound well to field his position. Strong competitor that attacks with his best stuff. Improved consistency and pitching intelligence that should come with experience could vault him to another level. Once stuff and command come together, he has an outside chance to become a top of the rotation starter and consistent All-Star caliber pitcher.
Relative Risk: Moderate. As college pitching prospects go, Appel is a reasonably safe bet to have a solid MLB career. Shows early feel for pitching and command, to go with plus to plus-plus stuff, giving him significant margin for error.
Draft Projection: One of the leading candidates to go 1-1 in the draft. Top college arm in the draft by a fair margin. Shouldn’t last past the top two picks come June.