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, 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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Bartolo Colon, Aaron Sanchez, and Yoenis Cespedes, among others, had eventful nights.
The Wednesday Takeaway
When Bartolo Colon made his major league debut for the Indians in 1997, Taijuan Walker was a few months away from turning five years old and had probably not yet been enrolled in kindergarten. Fast-forward 17 years and Colon is now pitching for his seventh organization and Walker is looking to tap into his massive potential in his first full season with the Mariners. Walker is expected to make his mark on the league in the not-so-distant future, but Wednesday’s rubber match between the Mets and Mariners was Colon’s time to shine.
The Mets spotted Colon an early 1–0 lead and he quickly went to work against Seattle, pounding the strike zone with his low-90s fastball and getting the Mariners to chase an occasional slider. Not a single Seattle batter was able to reach base during the first two times through the order, with Kyle Seager, Corey Hart, Jesus Sucre, and Logan Morrison all falling victim via strikeout.
For the summer, the world's best magazine has removed its archives (since 2007) from behind the paywall. Here's the best New Yorker baseball writing.
This summer, The New Yorker has opened up a portion of its online archives to non-subscribers. This is great news for non-subscribers (though not subscribing is itself bad news for non-subscribers), as some of the best baseball feature writing of the past seven years is now available in a non-$6.99/issue format. How will you spend your summer with The New Yorker online archives? May I advise.
The Blue Jays stud has arrived. What does it mean?
The Situation: As the Blue Jays strive to hang around the playoff race, their bullpen needed support and the club opted to look for that in the form of their top prospect. Sanchez will arrive in Toronto to fill a relief role in the middle innings.
Extra [innings], extra [innings], read all about it!
The Tuesday Takeaway
On Tuesday afternoon, one National League MVP candidate, Troy Tulowitzki, was placed on the disabled list with a left hip flexor strain. Hours later, one of his rivals in the running made his loudest case to date.
The Brewers led the National League Central by 6 1/2 games when the calendar flipped to July. A dozen days into the month, they shared first place with the Cardinals. And not once since the 12th had Milwaukee been able to rebuild its lead to more than a game.
Over at Fox Sports' Just A Bit Outside, I wrote a piece today on Team MVPs—not just those semi-official things that BBWAA chapters hand out, but the wholly unofficial "So'n So is Our MVP" claims that managers, players and beat writers will sometimes make. It is, I argue in the piece, the most chaotic and desperate circle of baseball debate, but it also has a long history and a certain consistency to it. I broke down the six and a half categories of Team MVP rebellion.