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.