Appel ready to answer when Astros call
ANAHEIM -- Astros prospect Mark Appel has seen fellow pitchers Lance McCullers and Vince Velasquez and shortstop Carlos Correa -- three guys he began the season with at Double-A Corpus Christi -- reach the Majors and have an impact on the big league club this year.
Appel, who got off to a slow start for the Hooks while others were being sent straight to Houston, didn't get discouraged or stop working, and now he's poised to perhaps join them with the Astros in the near future. Appel, the former No. 1 Draft pick, threw a seven-inning complete game Sunday in the latest in a stretch of strong outings.
In his last five starts, Appel (5-1) has allowed seven earned runs, eight walks and struck out 24 in 29 innings, going 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA. Overall, he's lowered his ERA to 4.26 from 6.02 following his May 22 start against Midland. He's ranked by MLB.com as the Astros' No. 2 prospect, behind Correa.
"I think just the circumstance the whole organization is in, with a lot of success all the way through, especially at the big league level, shows that the Astros are not scared to bring up their best players," Appel told MLB.com. "And so, Lance and Vince were pitching great. I'm very close friends with both of them and text them all the time and just so excited to see them do their thing. I want to be alongside them. I believe I can. I know I will at some point.
"It's funny. That team was pretty special here in Corpus at the beginning of the season and now three of those guys are having an impact on the big league team, and we would all go out to dinner and talk about what it would be like to all play together in Houston. That dream is becoming a reality pretty quickly. I'm excited to join them whenever that may be, but until then I'm going to keep working hard and having fun and trusting the process."
The Astros have been trying to get Appel to be more aggressive early in counts and get ahead of hitters more and establish his fastball, which he's been able to do recently.
"I think just everything has kind of been going off my fastball, so getting my fastball right and getting it down in the zone and throwing it early in the count, that really opens up a lot of doors for my offspeed stuff or maybe elevating my fastball by design and so on and so forth," he said. "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 also said he's gained confidence and trusts his stuff more, which he credits to the work he put in with pitching coach Doug Brocail between starts.
"Confidence in the work and really trusting, it's the best thing for me to prepare for each game," he said.
Appel still believes he can pitch in Houston this year, and whether the Astros would promote him at some point straight from Double-A like they did with McCullers and Velasquez or move him up to Triple-A first remains to be seen. The Astros could be getting veteran Scott Feldman back into the rotation within the next month, so there might not be a spot for Appel just yet, especially if they make a trade to add another arm.
"My goal is to get to Houston to help the big league team out, and I have confidence that I can get big league hitters and go deep into games and help the team win," he said. "Whenever the Astros feel that time is correct, I want to be ready. That's really the best answer I can give.
"I'm working hard here in Double-A and I'll continue working hard and having fun and competing all the way up until they decide to send me somewhere else, and then I'll work hard there. The process stays the same wherever I am. The work I put in stays the same wherever I am. I believe I can really help the team out. That's really what the goal is for this season and long term."