In my last year’s article about Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, I said:
…I kept thinking to myself, “If you have a 96-98 mph heater but can’t reliably command it, do you really have it at all?” It’s to his credit that he has the intelligence and humbleness to understand when he can’t throw his best bolt where he needs it, but that’s a trait you want to see from the fringe guys who have to maximize their stuff, not necessarily big-time prospects.
2012: 2.56 ERA, 0.22 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 9.51 K/9
2013: 1.18 ERA, 0.24 HR/9, 1.66 BB/9, 12.79 K/9
Though Pac-12 play is still in the early stages, Stanford’s schedule has not been a cakewalk. As of March 29, it ranks 78th in all of Division-I.
I’ve been watching Stanford games on the Internet, and the only mechanical difference between 2013 and 2012 is that Appel is a little faster to the plate and has a bit better rhythm. That would dovetail nicely with the reports I hear from pro scouts about his average velocity being up a tick, more like 94-96 rather than 92-94 with your occasional bolt. I’ve heard that he’s been throwing his four-seam fastball on a more downward plane instead of relying on his two-seam/sinker to get groundball outs, and that could be a big reason that his strikeout rate has jumped.
He still has fastball command issues: When he unleashes his best at 97-98, it is likely to miss up and to the arm side. He doesn’t command his best bolt very well and doesn’t seem to be able to reliably throw it for strikes, which was the case when I saw him against Washington in 2012. The big difference is that he won’t abandon this pitch anymore; he’ll just shave off a bit and still aggressively attack the zone with it.
Prior to 2013, I wasn’t buying the first pick, first round hype on Appel. But now that I’ve seen his changed approach and the increasingly ridiculous statistics (remember, he got shelled in his first start against Rice), I’ve got one leg solidly on the bandwagon of Mark Appel going 1-1 in the draft to the Houston Astros.