Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - July 12, 2013

Appel already moving up

Former Stanford pitcher off to good start in the minor leagues

by Rick Eymer

Stanford grad Mark Appel was a popular figure in his brief stay with the short season Single-A Tri-City ValleyCats. He figures to grab just as much attention when he makes his first start for the Quad Cities River Bandits on Sunday in Davenport, Iowa.

Appel, who was chosen by the Houston Astros as the first overall pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft, made two appearances, pitched a total of five innings and recorded a pair of no decisions as he launched his professional baseball career.

The ValleyCats, who play in Troy, N.Y. in the New York-Penn League, held a press conference with Appel on July 4. He made his first start the next day.

Before his next start, a solid three-inning effort on Tuesday, Appel was kept busy with appearances and autograph signings at the park.

The River Bandits, part of the full season Single-A Midwest League, are also home to 2012 overall No. 1 draft pick Carlos Correa, who will be playing in the Futures All-Star Game on Sunday. Quad Cities reported it will be the first time that consecutive No. 1 overall picks will appear on the same roster in Minor League baseball history.

Appel, who threw 106 innings in 14 starts for the Cardinal during the spring, is working on a pitch count and could have his season end early as he becomes adjusted to pro ball.

In his latest start, Appel threw three scoreless innings, striking out five, in a game eventually won by the Aberdeen Ironbirds in 10 innings. He has yet to walk a batter in five professional innings.

Appel will make the start against Dayton in the Quad Cities ballpark on the shores of the Mississippi River.

"I think by the end of the summer we're trying to get up to five or six innings, but I'm taking it day-by-day," Appel told MiLB.com's John Parker. "It depends on what the coaches and front office want. I have faith in the Astros' development team, and I know they don't want to be overly aggressive or try to rush things prematurely."

Tentative plans call for Appel to reach Double-A Corpus Christi by the end of August. Those plans, of course, will have a lot to do with Appel's results along the way.

"The big difference for me was that there was less adrenaline," Appel said. "It wasn't a big deal like my first start, it was more businesslike, and I think that's part of the reason it turned out better."

Appel pitched two innings in his professional debut last Friday night, giving up two runs, one earned, on three hits for the ValleyCats. He did not walk anybody and struck out one.

Appel was 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA for the Cardinal. He recorded 130 strikeouts and walked just 23. Opponents hit .203 against him. He was named a first team All-American.

In other baseball news:

Palo Alto High grad Joc Pederson is still listed on the roster for the All-Star Futures Game, scheduled for Sunday at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball released the rosters for the 15th iteration of the Futures game, which will pit the top American minor league prospects against those from other countries.

Though the game does not have the same ramifications as its major league companion, making the 50-man cut is a sign of future success. Ninety-nine players who have competed in the minor league adaptation have gone on to make an MLB All-Star roster, and 233 players who played in the Futures game are now in the big leagues.

Pederson, 21, is hitting .299 with 14 home runs, 19 doubles, 60 runs scored and 38 RBI in 82 games for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts in the Southern League. He has also stolen 25 bases in 28 attempts and has a .522 slugging percentage.

Pederson is in the top five of five offensive categories in the Southern League.

He's third in runs and hits. Tied for fourth in doubles. And he's second in homers and stolen bases.

"I don't really look at my numbers at all. I just try to put a quality at-bat together for the team," Pederson said.

Added Lookouts' manager Jody Reed: "I think if anything the power numbers are a little surprising. But with his hands and his bat speed. Now all of a sudden he's hitting with power, that takes him into that five-tool category, and it's exciting."

Pederson last played on July 3 — he went 2-for-5 with a double a home run — and reportedly has been sidelined with a strained oblique muscle. Pederson has only missed three games, thanks to a series of weekend rainouts in Chattanooga.

Pederson is the only member of the Dodgers' organization playing in the Futures Game. Last year, the only member of the Dodgers in the game was former Stanford pitcher Chris Reed.

Reed and Pederson are now teammates in Chattanooga. As of July 10, Reed had a 3.42 ERA in 19 games and 97.1 innings pitched. He has 75 strikeouts with 34 walks.

He and Pederson also were teammates last season at Rancho Cucamonga in the California League.

In addition to the Futures Game, Pederson also has been named to the North Division team for the Southern League's Midsummer Classic on Wednesday in Jacksonville, Fla. Pederson is one of seven Chattanooga players on the North roster.

Elsewhere, Palo Alto High grad B.J. Boyd was hitting .359 for the Vermont Lake Monsters after Wednesday's game in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League. In his past 10 games, Boyd is hitting .385.

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