Will the Astros salvage the first-overall pick they did sign?
Take a moment to forget about the Brady Aiken mess and think about last year’s first overall selection. Mark Appel was supposed to be on the fast track. You aren’t supposed to struggle if you’re the first overall selection, and the 6-foot-5 right-handed starter with a prototype body had the look of a player who would move quickly, stopping only briefly in Lancaster and Corpus Christi to humble inferior hitters with his mid-to-upper-90s fastball. If you’ve been paying attention to his season, you know this hasn’t exactly gone as planned.
What has happened
First, appendicitis in January sidelined him for most of the spring. Regardless, the Astros aggressively sent him to Lancaster to begin the season. I was able to catch an early start of his, on April 10th, and was impressed with the raw stuff he brought to the table. Then 22, Appel showed a fastball that touched 98 mph, and paired it with a sharp, bat-missing slider (scouting report). Immediately after this start, on April 14th, Appel’s velocity dipped and only touched 91 mph. As has been well documented, the Astros installed a tandem or “piggyback” pitching rotation, where two “starters” would pitch back to back in the same game. Also, some pitchers would be subjected to only three days of rest, which happened to Appel in these two starts. This obviously took a toll on Appel, and there were rumors of shoulder soreness after the second start. He was sent to extended spring training to get some rest and have proper time to build stamina for the season. After returning, he had the worst start of his season on May 31st, surrendering 10 earned runs in 1 1/3 innings. Five days later, he was diagnosed with tendinitis in his right thumb and scratched from his next start. After getting the standard four days of rest (and sometimes more), he continued to struggle. Recently, the Astros made it public that Appel had a right wrist issue and received a cortisone shot. It’s unclear whether the thumb tendinitis is connected. I took in his start on July 10th with intentions of pin-pointing his problems.
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The Situation: Heading into yesterday’s game, Houston first basemen were hitting .181/.269/.291 as a group. With Singleton boasting a .267/.397/.544 line for Triple-A Oklahoma City and his contract extension freshly signed, the Astros summoned him to the majors to provide some pop—and in his debut, he did.
Get to know the Rangers' other second baseman of the future.
The Situation: Former no. 1 overall prospect Jurickson Profar is out for several more weeks and Donnie Murphy just landed on the disabled list with a neck strain. Josh Wilson, the Rangers’ Opening Day second baseman, was designated for assignment. The Rangers are looking for a jolt until Profar returns.
Background: The Rangers signed “Roogie” Odor out of Venezuela for $425,000 and he immediately found success in the states, slashing .262/.323/.352 in 258 plate appearances as a 17-year-old in Low-A Spokane. The promising start jumpstarted an accelerated path to the big leagues for Odor, as he landed in Hickory (A-Ball) in 2012 and again held his own. Often in the shadow of other highly touted middle-infield Rangers prospects, Odor finally got his time to shine in 2013. Across two leagues, he hit .303 with a .369 on-base percentage and raised his slugging to .474. In fact, in 144 Double-A plate appearances, Odor slugged an eye-popping .530. After the season, he was rated the no. 1 overall player in the Texas Rangers system and second-best second baseman in the minors according to Baseball Prospectus.
RHP Chris Stratton (Giants)
Good body; athletic and lean; high 3/4 arm slot; easy mechanics; fastball 89–92, touched 93 once; touched 92 late in the game but mostly 90-91 throughout; pitch has some run to it; was able to control it in the strike zone, but command wasn't plus; fastball got touched up often; nine hits in five innings; slider was a plus offering; around 82 mph; pitch has good late bite; can be looked at as a slurve but it worked so who cares; kept it down; got Carlos Correa swinging on three straight at the knees; very confident in pitch; flirted with a changeup late in the game; didn't throw many but the few he broke off were effective and for strikes; mid-rotation or back-end guy for me; wasn't all that impressed with the fastball and fastball command.
Video and reports on some of the top prep players in the nation.
With the playoffs approaching and the cellar-dwelling teams counting the days until 2014, let’s take a look at some high school bats who shined at the Area Code Games last month. Earlier, we looked at the pitchers.
Some of the top arms at the summer's annual Area Code Games in Long Beach.
The Area Code Games are the premier event of the summer for amateur players looking to boost their draft stock before heading into the long winter. Hundreds of scouts and coaches from big league organizations, colleges, and scouting sites descend upon Long Beach for six long days of baseball.
The first day started with a five-hour batting practice, with every player taking swings. Games begin in the afternoon of the first day and continue throughout. I headed to Long Beach with Nick J. Faleris to film the event. Here are reports (with video) on pitchers who caught my eye.
A look at some of the top high school prospects, who played in San Diego this weekend.
Last Sunday Petco Park hosted the 11th All-American Classic, and the second since Perfect Game began headlining the event last summer. Always one of the most highly scouted events on the summer circuit, this year’s PGAAC saw more 225 scouts in attendance to evaluate 49 of the top amateur talents in the country, as well as the top draft-eligible talent north of the border.
The full showcase included multiple workout days at the University of San Diego, live-streamed (and archived) at Perfect Game’s website, along with the nine inning game itself, which was carried on MLB Network. Jason Parks and Chris Rodriguez attended the events in person, while Nick Faleris followed remotely. This is what they saw.
Notes on 11 prospects, including Marlins left-hander Andrew Heaney and Astros catcher Tyler Heineman.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Andrew Heaney, LHP, Marlins (Double-A Jacksonville): 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K. While not throwing a game with huge numbers, Heaney pitched very well in his first start at Double-A after dominating the Florida State League. Armed with a plus fastball and curve, he could be seeing his prospect status rise if he continues on this pace.
Position Prospect of the Day: Tyler Heineman, C, Astros (High-A Lancaster): 3-4, 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, 7 RBI. Heralded as a good defensive catcher getting drafted out of UCLA, Heinemann has hit very well in his first two seasons of pro ball. And while he is in a launching pad in Lancaster, the friendly confines can only aid him further up the chain.