Mark Appel: What the heck happened?

In my last year’s article about Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, I said:

…I kept thinking to myself, “If you have a 96-98 mph heater but can’t reliably command it, do you really have it at all?” It’s to his credit that he has the intelligence and humbleness to understand when he can’t throw his best bolt where he needs it, but that’s a trait you want to see from the fringe guys who have to maximize their stuff, not necessarily big-time prospects.

Well, take a look at his 2012 stats vs. his 2013 stats so far:

2012: 2.56 ERA, 0.22 HR/9, 2.2 BB/9, 9.51 K/9
2013: 1.18 ERA, 0.24 HR/9, 1.66 BB/9, 12.79 K/9

Though Pac-12 play is still in the early stages, Stanford’s schedule has not been a cakewalk. As of March 29, it ranks 78th in all of Division-I.

What changed?

I’ve been watching Stanford games on the Internet, and the only mechanical difference between 2013 and 2012 is that Appel is a little faster to the plate and has a bit better rhythm. That would dovetail nicely with the reports I hear from pro scouts about his average velocity being up a tick, more like 94-96 rather than 92-94 with your occasional bolt. I’ve heard that he’s been throwing his four-seam fastball on a more downward plane instead of relying on his two-seam/sinker to get groundball outs, and that could be a big reason that his strikeout rate has jumped.

He still has fastball command issues: When he unleashes his best at 97-98, it is likely to miss up and to the arm side. He doesn’t command his best bolt very well and doesn’t seem to be able to reliably throw it for strikes, which was the case when I saw him against Washington in 2012. The big difference is that he won’t abandon this pitch anymore; he’ll just shave off a bit and still aggressively attack the zone with it.

Prior to 2013, I wasn’t buying the first pick, first round hype on Appel. But now that I’ve seen his changed approach and the increasingly ridiculous statistics (remember, he got shelled in his first start against Rice), I’ve got one leg solidly on the bandwagon of Mark Appel going 1-1 in the draft to the Houston Astros.

Kyle owns Driveline Baseball and Driveline Biomechanics Research, and has authored The Dynamic Pitcher, a comprehensive book and video set dedicated to developing elite youth baseball pitchers. He is also a consultant for an MLB team and a major Division-I college program. Follow him on Twitter @drivelinebases or email him here.
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9 years ago

Eh, let’s wait a bit; that’s only 38 innings. The difference in walk rate is equivalent to a total of 2 walks this season, and his RA/9 hasn’t changed significantly from last year, thanks to 6 unearned runs already.

9 years ago

Bucs fan here…sigh. Good for him that he’s actually starting to improve his draft stock (although Hiz is correct in stating it IS early). I’m just hoping the Bucs can get another quality arm in the first round this year…and sign him.

9 years ago

It’s a bit funny that despite all of the theatrics last year, there’s a good chance that Houston will end up with Appel anyway in addition to Correa.

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