The Pirates quickly snatched up Stanford pitcher Mark Appel after he fell to them at No. 8 in the baseball draft.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pirates scouted Mark Appel before he ever made it to Stanford, when he was a promising right-hander for Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif. They tracked him throughout college. This season, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said, they had personnel at each of his starts.
They just weren't sure they would have a chance to draft him.
"We're very pleased that he was sitting there when it was our selection," Huntington said.
Appel, projected as a possible first overall pick in Major League Baseball's amateur draft Monday night, fell to the Pirates at No. 8. They have now taken a right-handed pitcher in the first round of the draft in three consecutive years -- Appel followed Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon as Pirates' top draft picks.
"We said we would stay true to the board, that we would take the best player available on the board," Huntington said.
"The beautiful part of the draft, going through the process, is you tackle every player as if they're going to be available at your pick. You do the work, you do the preparation, you do the study so that when a player becomes available, you like him -- you take him. We projected, much like the rest of the industry, that he would go earlier. We feel very comfortable with this selection."
The Pirates took Texas Tech outfielder Barrett Barnes with the 45th selection of the draft in the compensation round, a pick they gained when Ryan Doumit left in the offseason. Barnes hit .325 with nine home runs and 49 RBIs this season.
Appel, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior, went 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA this season with the Cardinal. The Detroit Tigers drafted him in the 15th round out of high school, but he opted for college. He worked in relief for most of his freshman season, but became a starter in his sophomore year, when he had a 3.02 ERA.
The Cardinal advanced to the super regional and will face Florida State. In a regional game Friday, Appel allowed four hits and one run in a complete-game victory against Fresno State. He struck out 11 and walked two.
Appel was not available after the selection, but issued a statement through the Pirates, saying: "I'm currently concentrating on winning a national championship and finishing my academic endeavors at Stanford. I will address the possibility of a professional career in due time."
Appel's fastball can hit 99 mph, and he throws a hard breaking ball to go with a solid changeup. "He brings a quality combination of stuff, of size, of strength, of ability," Huntington said.
The next step is whether the Pirates can sign him and how much money that will require and how that affects their allotted dollars for draft picks under the new collective bargaining agreement.
For the second year in a row, the Pirates will deal with agent Scott Boras, who represents Cole and will advise Appel. This time, the CBA restructured the framework under which those negotiations take place. The Pirates have $6.56 million to spend on their picks in the first 10 rounds, a figure assigned to them by MLB. The eighth slot was assigned a value of $2.9 million. The Pirates can spend more than that, but could jeopardize their ability to sign the rest of their picks in the first 10 rounds.
"There's a system in place, there's a process in place," Huntington said. "We're very optimistic we have a legitimate shot to sign Mark."
Huntington said selecting Appel would not cause the Pirates to re-shuffle their draft board in light of financial concerns.
"We're going to take each player, we're going to take each pick, and take the right player that we believe fits for us for the right reasons," he said. "Some of those may be players that are 'over slot' value, some of those may be players that are 'under slot' value."
If they exceed their pool by more than 5 percent, they would lose a first-round draft pick in the 2013 draft. Exceeding it by so much as a nickel eliminates them from receiving picks forfeited from other teams that exceed their pools. Those picks will be distributed via lottery.
"The value of the competitive balance picks is tremendous," Huntington said. "It's an extra pick for us in a year where there's not 30 compensation picks. That's going to be a significant consideration."
The Houston Astros bypassed Appel to take shortstop Carlos Correa from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy with the first pick, and the Minnesota Twins selected Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton second.
Top pitching prospects: Lately, the Pirates have invested heavily in pitching with their first-round draft picks:
Year Pitcher Pos School Ht Wt. Rd Pk Minor league team