The Huston Astros have announced that this year's first-overall draft-pick, Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, will sign on Wednesday afternoon. The signing signals the beginning of a pro career that the franchise hopes will be the next step on its rebuilding path.
Appel was a first-round pick for the second straight year, but unlike 2012, when he failed to come to terms after being selected eight overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates, he quickly came to terms this year (it helps when you're a college senior and have nowhere else to go but the independent leagues, a gambit that has sometimes worked and at other times backfired very badly -- see Rockies 2000 first-rounder Matt Harrington).
The selection and quick signing represents a victory of sorts for the Astros, who gambled in passing up Appel with the first-overall selection a year ago only to get their man the second time around -- the player they selected last year, shortstop Carlos Correa, is also an excellent prospect. As for Appel, he had a strong final college season, posting a 2.12 ERA in 106.1 innings while striking 130 and walking only 23. With excellent command and a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, he should move quickly through the Astros system.