The Astros promoted former No. 1 pick Mark Appel to Double-A on Saturday. While not a major story, the move did catch some attention because Appel did not fare well -- at least statistically -- in High-A. Before heading to Corpus Christi to report for Double-A, the Astros had Appel stop off in Houston to throw a bullpen session for team executives and coaches at Minute Maid Park
The promotion and the special bullpen session apparently did not sit well with a few players on the major league roster:
"It's (expletive) unbelievable," an Astros player just said out of the blue about Mark Appel being allowed throw a bullpen.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 27, 2014
Another player just approached me to complain about Appel's promotion and bullpen session. Multiple expletives were dropped. Not good.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 27, 2014
Let's just put it this way, folks, the fact that Appel was brought here has upset more than a few players.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 27, 2014
In a sport that prides itself on having guys pay dues, the Astros didn't help perception in clubhouse that Appel is being babied.— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) July 27, 2014
According to de Jesus Ortiz, the issue most players had with both the promotion and the bullpen session is they perceived Appel to be receiving special treatment because of his draft status.
"So now you get rewarded for having an 11 ERA? And you have two guys down there (at Class A Lancaster) with 2 ERAs who can't get called up?" an anonymous Astro player told de Jesus Ortiz, via the Houston Chronicle.
Appel had a 9.74 ERA in 12 starts at High-A, but as Keith Law of ESPN noted on Twitter, the stat line isn't always the best indicator of a promotion and instead accomplishing goals set by the player development staff can be a better measure.
Judging by the anonymous player reaction, the promotion may be less of a deal than the appearance at Minute Maid Park. The Astros apparently wanted to get one of their top prospects some firsthand time with major league coaches and the Astros pitching coach Brent Strom ran the session. Appel had even left by the time most players arrived in the afternoon. Still, there was some apparent resentment over the fact Appel had not earned time in the big league clubhouse.
Even if Appel hasn't earned a spot in the big league clubhouse by whatever measure the Astros players are setting, the response was met by many saying the Astros and their 42-63 record should focus more on winning and less on how the team is managing the minor league system. According to de Jesus Ortiz, the players are frustrated with the lack of commitment to win from the front office. The Astros drafted Appel No. 1 overall to help them win. Getting him some time with the best coaches they have would seem to be an attempt to maximize their return, which would also help them win.
This all seems like a lot to be made of one 40-minute bullpen session and a promotion from High-A to Double-A.