Putting Mark Appel's season into perspective

I'm not here to argue that Astros pitching prospect and former top overall pick Mark Appel is having a good season. Many observers were justifiably surprised (and teammates were reportedly outraged) by his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi, but he may actually be better prepared for the higher level than his 9.74 ERA and 1.92 WHIP would suggest.

He fell short of a strikeout per inning (40 Ks in 44 1/3 innings) at Advanced Class A Lancaster with good, but not great, ground ball and walk rates. One would expect more from a high-calibre prospect, but as I pointed out on Wednesday's edition of Fantasy Baseball Today, it may be going too far to call Appel's season a disaster. Lancaster is an extremely hitter-friendly park, and in five starts on the road, Appel had a 5.48 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. The California League in general is tough on pitchers, and the high ERA relative to the WHIP suggests that Appel may have been the victim of a low strand rate in his road starts. His overall strand rate was a ludicrously-low 47 percent, according to FanGraphs.com.

In the California League, even a 4.00 ERA is an achievement. Only six qualifying starters in that circuit have a an ERA of 4.00 or lower. By contrast, 23 starting pitchers in the Florida State League have met that ERA threshold.

Even after accounting for park factors and luck, Appel may have been a merely average pitcher in the California League, and his Fantasy owners were certainly looking for more than that. He could, however, be a pleasant surprise in the Texas League. Appel's current owners should stick with him, and those who don't own him in dynasty leagues have a buy-low opportunity.

Data Analyst

Al Melchior has been playing Fantasy Baseball since 1994, getting his start in the Southern Maryland Anthropomorphic Baseball League (SMABL). He has been writing about Fantasy Baseball since 2000, getting... Full Bio

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