Pirates select Stanford pitcher with 1st pick
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington must have felt like Sir Isaac Newton during the Major League draft on Monday.
An Appel fell in his lap.
Stanford junior right-hander Mark Appel, regarded as the top pick on many draft boards and a consensus top-five selection, slid to the Pirates in the first round, at No. 8 overall, in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
“We projected him much higher,” Huntington said, “as the rest of the industry did.”
Appel was at the top of Baseball America's mock draft, but pick by pick the hard-throwing 6-foot-5, 215-pounder slid down the board. When the Pirates' turn came, they didn't hesitate. Huntington said there were “a couple players we thought about taking very strongly,” but in the end, Appel was the choice.
“We said we would stay true to the board and take the best player on the board,” Huntington said, “and we've done that.”
The Pirates took Texas Tech outfielder Barrett Barnes, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder, with the supplemental first-round pick at No. 45 overall.
Appel, 20, is poised to join last year's No. 1 pick Gerrit Cole, 21, and ‘10 No. 2 pick Jameson Taillon, 20, as part of a gifted, young Pirates' pitching staff of the future.
“There's no way Appel could have continued to slide,” MLB Network analyst John Hart said. “He's too good of a talent. He's too close to the big leagues.”
First the Pirates must sign Appel, represented by prominent agent Scott Boras. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Pirates have roughly $6.56 million to sign the first 11 picks — Cole got an $8 million signing bonus last year — or face harsh penalties for going over the budget amount. It remains to be seen what chunk of the Pirates' allotment it will take to sign a once-projected No. 1 pick.
“We are going to attack this draft to get a deep and talented draft class,” Huntington said. “This draft is not about one player.”
Appel, who went 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA this season, grew up in Houston until he was 12, so going to the hometown Astros at No. 1 was expected. But the Astros took Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa and when three pitchers — LSU's Kevin Gausman, University of San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer and California prep star Max Fried — went in picks 4 through 7, Appel fell to the Pirates.
“I try not to think about (where I will be picked) too much because I can't control who picks me in the draft,” Appel told ESPN.com before the draft. “All I can control is how I go out and perform every week.”
Huntington wasn't concerned about the slide — “I'm not in their draft rooms and not sure why they picked who they did” — and said the Pirates' scouts had prepared as if the Pac-12 strikeout leader would be there at No. 8.
“You attack every player as though they are going to be available at your pick,” Huntington said. “I'm not sure there was a start this year that we missed. We've done our due diligence.”
The 40-round, three-day draft resumes today with rounds 2-15. The Pirates' second-round pick is No. 69 overall, followed by a third-rounder at No. 103.
John Grupp is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7930.