Mark Appel was one of nine minor league players invited to the Philadelphia Phillies ' spring training Wednesday.
Appel started his career as a No. 1 overall draft pick, but hasn't lived up to his billing to this point. He was traded to the Phillies in part of the deal that sent former closer Ken Giles back to Houston, and he'll look to improve on his 4.48 ERA and 1.40 WHIP at Triple-A last season. The 24-year-old seems bound for Triple-A again this season, but big league camp and a change of scenery could provide the spark needed for him to turn things around.
Appel was a surprise addition to the trade after initial reports had Houston sending outfield prospect Derek Fisher to the
His ERA is a bit inflated, as he gave up seven runs in his first start with the Grizzlies. Taking out that start, and Appel's mark goes down to a much more comfortable 2.19.
Overall this season, Appel has a 4.58 ERA while pitching for Double-A and Triple-A. With the Astros in the thick of a pennant race, it remains to be seen if Appel will make his Major League debut at some point this season.
Appel is 5-1 with a 4.26 ERA and one complete game at Double-A this season.
A promotion to Triple-A is at least a strong possibility. The former No. 1 overall draft pick has rebounded from a poor start this season to perform well. He is 2-0 over his last five starts. He has allowed just seven earned runs with eight walks and 24 strikeouts in 29 innings in compiling a 2.14 ERA over that stretch and lower it to 4.26 on the year.
The Astros have urged Appel to be more aggressive early in counts and get ahead of hitters by establishing his fastball rather than nibble. The advice has paid off.
"I think just everything has kind of been going off my fastball, so getting the fastball ... down in the zone and throwing it early in the count, that really opens up a lot of doors for my off-speed stuff or maybe elevating my fastball by design," he told MLB.com. "Being able to get ahead of hitters, it puts you in a pitcher's count and also you end up not really walking too many guys."
Appel has indeed walked just five in 18 1/3 innings over his last four starts after piling up nine in 13 1/3 innings over his previous three outings.
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