2013 MLB Draft: Stanford’s Mark Appel Taken No. 1 Overall by Houston Astros

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Stanford Cardinal fans have a lot to be proud of this evening, as pitcher Mark Appel was chosen first overall in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.

Paul Sakuma, AP

Appel had a 10-4 record with a 2.12 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 106.1 innings in his senior season at Stanford.

“Our program could not be happier for Mark Appel,” Stanford head coach Mark Marquess said. “Mark ranks right up there with the elite pitchers to play for Stanford. He has not only been an incredible performer and leader on the field, but a great human being off the field.”

He was drafted last year by the Pittsburgh Pirates No. 8 overall, but the two sides could not agree on a contract and he returned for his senior year.

I wrote a piece last year for BaySportsNet, chronicling Appel’s journey to being a top prospect. He actually fell to eighth overall, as reports before the 2011 draft indicated that the Astros, who had the first overall pick as well, would pick him.

Appel, who coincidentally grew up an Astros fan and moved to the Bay Area when he was 12, had to work hard to achieve success.

He played baseball for Monta Vista High School in San Ramon, where he was relegated to a bullpen role during his senior year, as other pitchers who were perceived to have more talent were in the starting rotation. He was selected in the 15th round (450th overall) in 2009 by the Detroit Tigers, but chose attend Stanford instead on a scholarship.

Appel continued to pitch out of the bullpen in his freshmen year at Stanford, finishing with just 26 strikeouts in 38 innings and a 5.92 ERA.

Stanford pitching coach Rusty Filter cited Appel’s lack of an arsenal of pitches for his mediocre freshmen sesaon, telling Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA, “This guy didn’t even start for his high school team. In my system, we’re always pitching to contact, and you have to throw strikes to be effective. He didn’t have good command on his breaking ball and changeup as a freshman and that cost him dearly. Mark was a one-pitch guy as a freshman, and it’s something we talked a lot about.”

So Appel worked hard during the summer, and set a goal to be in the starting rotation in his sophomore campaign. He spent some time in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, working on developing his pitches.

“I went into the summer focusing on getting a lot of innings and creating a starter’s mentality,” Appel said. “Everything I was doing all summer and winter, I was preparing to be a starter. I wanted to be the Friday night guy for this team.”

He finished the summer going 6-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 43 innings in the NECBL, and was named to the starting rotation in his sophomore year at Stanford. His performance was much improved, as he finished the sophomore campaign with a 6-7 record and a 3.07 ERA and did eventually become the Friday night starter.

However, the journey to success was just starting for Appel, who had a career year as a junior, going 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA, and 119 K/26 BB with 119 innings this season. He had seven games with at least 10 strikeouts, and averaged 7.9 innings per start.

That success carried over to his senior year, and now here he is, the top prospect chosen in the 2013 MLB Draft.

Last year, he didn’t get a chance to play for his favorite team growing up. This year, he will be headed to Houston for sure.