The Houston Astros are "fully engaged" in contract negotiations with No. 1 draft pick Mark Appel, and general manager Jeff Luhnow is hopeful that the club will strike a deal with the tall right-hander before the week is out, report Brian McTaggert and Chris Abshire of MLB.com.
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It was prematurely reported late last week that Appel and the Astros had reached a deal, but in reality the club did not step up negotiations until after Appel's college graduation ceremony on Sunday. Luhnow expressed that he wanted the Stanford senior to have the weekend to "enjoy his commencement," and that negotiations would now escalate rather quickly.
The Astros have yet to meet face-to-face with Appel or his agent, Scott Boras, but they have had several conversations over the phone and Luhnow "feel[s] good about where it's headed." The assigned slot value for the no. 1 pick in the draft is $7.8 million. Houston was able to sign 2012 top pick Carlos Correa for $4.8 million -- well under the slot value -- but is unlikely to have the same luck with Appel this year.
Appel, 21, posted a 2.12 ERA and fanned 130 in 106⅓ innings for Stanford this season, making him a top-pick favorite for the second year running. While signability issues dropped Appel all the way to the No. 8 spot last season, the Astros showed no hesitation in drafting the power right-hander with the top pick this time around.