Mark Appel might not have seen this coming. Many didn't, though the writing was on the wall for a lot of us paying attention to scouts reports.
Expected to go first, second, even third in the 2012 MLB Draft, Appel found himself in the eight slot, selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's a turn of events that could've cost him a few million dollars. And, based on his anti-press move post-selection, he might have been dissapointed, stressed out, or just plain overwhelmed.
While the money and team might not have been what he'd hoped (he publicly stated how much he'd like to be with the Houston Astros), the Pirates system is one ripe with possibility. The strengths are plenty. Ranked 11th by Baseball America, the Pirates have gone to work the past few years under GM Neal Huntington, commited to deepening their pitching and drafting and developing major league-quality talent.
The Pirates willingness to take risks and spend in record amounts has led to smart drafting. Appel is in the company of top pitching prospects Jameson Tallion and Gerrit Cole, not to mention Luis Heredia and Kyle McPherson.
Appel has a lot of questions to ask himself going forward. He has to feel that this is his best chance. He has to have reason to want to be part of the Pirates organization, the same way he had reasons to want to be with the Astros. Obviously, being drafted first is the preference. Sure. But he had personal feelings about the prospect of playing for Houston. In the days and weeks that stretched before him, what did he sense or even know was possible? If he was prepared to see his slot drop (as was widely reported), it's possible he asked himself some crucial questions already.
There is the option of returning to play his senior year and not sign with the Pirates. But it's hard to imagine he would pass. Afterall, he went on record with this blog in 2011, saying, "So many things can change from now until the draft, so I don't want to get ahead of myself." He seemed levelheaded about the chatter.
On the other hand, in that same interview he had this to say, "I was born in Houston, Texas and lived there until I was 12 years old, so my favorite team is the Houston Astros (although we have had some tough years of late). But my favorite memory as both a player and a fan comes from when I was living and playing in California. I was invited to attend the Houston Astros pre-draft workout. My whole family and a few of my childhood friends got to come out and watch me pitch a few innings in Minute Maid Park. I also got to meet one of my all-time favorite Astros, Craig Biggio. As both a fan and a player, it was a dream come true and really a great experience." Note the 'We' in that first sentence.
It's safe to say he was likely let down by not being chosen by Houston. And, to boot, just turned out a 10-2 season for Stanford. The results were not enough. Whatever caused Houston to not select him, six other teams thought the same thing or had other issues with him.
Appel is wanted and needed in Pittsburgh. He'd be wise to sign on the dotted line.