The Astros Six Million Dollar Man Has Stalled At Double-A

Mark Appel suffered his first loss on the season Thursday night. Normally a first loss coming near the end of May would be good news, except that Appel’s case he is carrying an ERA of 5.85 through his first nine games for the Corpus Christi Hooks.

Appel, the 23-year-old who was drafted as the first overall player by the Houston Astros in 2012 has struggled this season to live up to the lofty expectations for this former Stanford University standout.

Opponents are hitting a robust .323 off of him and his WHIP is frustrating 1.79, contributing to his overall lack of success, despite the 3-1 won-loss record that has been propped up by the Hooks explosive offense, that covers a multitude of sins.
Through his first nine games, Appel has only pitched forty innings. Due in large part to the tandem rotation system utilized by the Astros organization; which in my opinion, delays the progress of those prospects that are going to make it to the Majors and prolongs the decision to dismiss those players that are not going to make it.

In 40 innings Appel has faced 184 batters, an average of 4.6 hitters per inning, giving up 28 runs (26 earned), on 53 hits and 18 walks. Among the Astros pitching prospects ranked by in the organization’s top 30, pitchers with a minimum 20 innings pitched, Appel ranks last in ERA (5.85) and WHIP (1.775).

Appel leads Astros prospects with the most walks (18) and ranks second to only Brady Rodgers with hits allowed (53), batters faced (184) and number of pitches this season (677). Not the numbers that are going to get Appel a call up to Houston this season to shore up the Astros rotation.

At times this season, Appel has had trouble locating his fastball, which he has been throwing in the 92-95 mph range. I don’t think he has lost speed on the pitch, but instead he’s taken a little off the fastball to try to locate it. Unfortunately, the hitters are taking advantage.

Appel has had trouble pitching consistently, his 83-85 mph pitch needs work. His 81-91 mph slider that looks like a cutter is another secondary pitch he doesn’t appear to feel comfortable throwing. He always seems to be behind in the count and that doesn’t help. He looks completely lost on the mound with runners on base.

Appel started the season looking like he was ready to turn the corner on his career and was ready for a promotion to the Majors . In his first three starts, Appel tossed 14 innings, striking out 11 batters and walking two while carrying a 1.92 ERA. Despite these numbers, he ended the first month of the season with a 4.00 ERA.

In May, Appel’s performance continued to decline as his ERA in ballooned to 7.36. Left-handed batters are hitting .382 against him and righties hitting .289.

A first round draft pick will always get plenty of opportunities to prove themselves, if only to justify the organizations decision to choose them in the first round. Appel signed for $6,350,000.00, the largest signing bonus in franchise history, so he will be given every opportunity to redeem himself after this slow start of the season. For the Astros front office, the fans and that historic bonus, the sooner the better.

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