June 8, 2012; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Stanford Cardinal pitcher Mark Appel (26) is met at the mound by teammates during the fourth inning of game one of the Tallahassee super regional against the Florida State Seminoles at Dick Howser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

Mark Appel, Pirates Risk It All


People were shocked. Everyone was sure the Houston Astros would  take Mark Appel with the first overall pick. There were rumors that the Astros had already decided. As always, there was no drama. The MLB Draft never had drama. The 2012 Draft would be no different. But then it happened. The Astros passed on Appel, selecting shortstop Carlos Correa. And that was just the start. Team after team passed on Appel. Finally at 8th overall, Appel was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Appel couldn’t believe it. One second he was going the number one overall pick. He was going to his hometown team, having been born in Houston, and going into the record books. Nothing could have been better. There was plenty work still to be done, but it was his first step on the path to being an elite major league pitcher. And then everything changed. Nobody knew where he would end up. A certainty, something that Appel had all but taken for granted, was taken away from him. He fell to the Pirates at number 8 and had no idea how to react. In his mind, everything had come crashing down.

The Pirates knew it wouldn’t be easy. Appel thought of himself as worthy of the first overall selection in the draft and wanted to be paid like it. His agent was Scott Boras, not exactly The Great Compromiser. More important than the money was the mental agony he had gone through. He wasn’t the 8th overall pick- he was better. Yet no one cared. Every draft pick comes with risk. The Pirates raised the stakes. If they succeeded, they would have three of the best pitching prospects in baseball in Appel, Gerrit Cole, and Jameson Taillon. If they failed, people would jeer. These Pirates, they think they’ve put it all on the table, they think they’re doing everything they can to turn their decrepit excuse for a franchise around, but they’re not. They’re talking the talk, but they don’t have the guts to go all in and make the necessary things happen. 2012 is just one lucky year. 

Appel wanted 4.8 million dollars, the amount received by the Correa at first overall, no less. The Pirates can’t do it. They maximum possible offer is 3.8 million dollars- any more and they’ll forfeit their 2013 first round draft pick. If they give Appel what he wants, they would forfeit their first rounders in both 2013 and 2014. It just isn’t possible unless the Appel camp caves or the Pirates decide that Appel is good enough to sacrifice those picks.

If Appel doesn’t sign, he’ll either return to Stanford or pitch in independent ball. Either way, he’s risking everything. One pitch that goes wrong and he could lose it all. The money is on the table. 3.8 million dollars is not chump change. Why does the money matter? If Mark Appel is as good as we think he is, he’ll get to the major leagues, pitch well for four or five years, and become a free agent. 4.8 million dollars will be a figure he can laugh about when he puts his name on the dotted line for his first free agent contract. But it’s not really about the money. Appel has been knocked off his pedestal. He welcomed the pressure. He wanted all eyes to be on him. That’s what drives him. It’s gone. 3.8 million dollars won’t make it come back.

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  • http://twitter.com/Seaofpirates Timothy Pollard

    Good post, but It’s Appel’s to lose. The Bucs will get the 9th overall pick next year if Appel doesn’t sign. They certainly didn’t “risk it all”, though Appel will be if he doesn’t lock it down today.

    • http://puckettspond.com/ Wally Fish

      I agree that Appel has more to lose but the Pirates did take a significant risk when they draft him. You are correct that they will essentially get their pick back in the 2013 draft if he walks, but they essentially lose a year of development no matter who they draft/sign next year. Then you have to consider that it’s probable that the player they select 9th overall will not be as talented as Appel. Though fairness in conversation I had Fried, Zimmer and Gausman ranked ahead of Mark Appel on my board and I probably would have gone for Giolito over him as well assuming there were no major red flags in his medical reports.

      Not signing your 1st round pick is a blow to any system and for a “smaller market” team like the Pirates not adding a 1st round talent like Appel to their pipeline is a setback.

      All that said I think the Pirates have played it right to this point and I applaud the fact that they took a chance and picked him knowing he was going to be tough to sign once he had fallen to them.

  • Adult Supervisor

    Mark Appel has only himself to blame for choosing Scott Boras as his agent. Boras is known for playing hardball and demanding big contacts. The Astros played it smart by drafting a top prospect who was willing to accept less than slot. This enabled them to draft and sign several hard to sign players like Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz.

    • http://puckettspond.com/ Wally Fish

      Scott Boras is the agent – he’s not making the decision here. While I don’t know Appel personally, he’s at Stanford so I’m going to assume he’s not a rube and knew full well what being represented by Boras Co entailed.

      Boras can give his opinion and tell his clients what he thinks they should do but at the end of the day it’s Mark Appel – and not the Scott Boras Co. – that makes the choice whether or not 3.8 million is worth signing for.