Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Appel, Correa linked by history, pursuit of Majors

Special to MLB.com

Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. The 1990s Mariners and the current edition of the Nationals achieved what the Astros are striving for in 2016, or perhaps even sooner: to simultaneously have a pair of productive No. 1 overall Draft picks on their big league roster.

For now, Mark Appel and Carlos Correa appear happy to be working toward the Major Leagues together for a third straight season. Correa, Houston's top pick in 2012, and Appel, selected first overall in 2013, first played together in Class A Quad Cities (Midwest League) two years ago. They continued their cross-country tour in Class A Advanced Lancaster (California League) last season, and they were both assigned to Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas League) to start 2015.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. The 1990s Mariners and the current edition of the Nationals achieved what the Astros are striving for in 2016, or perhaps even sooner: to simultaneously have a pair of productive No. 1 overall Draft picks on their big league roster.

For now, Mark Appel and Carlos Correa appear happy to be working toward the Major Leagues together for a third straight season. Correa, Houston's top pick in 2012, and Appel, selected first overall in 2013, first played together in Class A Quad Cities (Midwest League) two years ago. They continued their cross-country tour in Class A Advanced Lancaster (California League) last season, and they were both assigned to Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas League) to start 2015.

Appel and Correa were the first pair of No. 1 overall picks to play on the same Minor League team since outfielder Al Chambers and pitcher Mike Moore played for Seattle's Double-A affiliate, the Lynn (Mass.) Sailors, in 1981.

In addition, Appel and Correa are just the fifth duo to accomplish the feat, and the only consecutive No. 1 overall picks to play on the same Minor League team.

Video: Top Prospects: Mark Appel, RHP, Astros

"It is special. It only happens when your parent organization has had a couple bad years, but I think we're all past that," Appel said. "Carlos and I became quick friends in Quad Cities. I think we have an understanding of what we're both going through."

What they're going through is far more scrutiny than Griffey and Rodriguez faced, and likely a touch more than what Strasburg and Harper experienced.

"It's harder now to be a No. 1 than it used to be, because anything you do is out there and everybody can see it," Coprus Christi manager Rodney Linares explained. "It happens right now, and it's already known around the world, just based on the fact that social media is so big."

On top of social media, there are numerous prospect rankings that come out multiple times each year. MLB.com ranks Correa as the third-best prospect in baseball, with Appel coming in at No. 30.

While Appel admits he feels some pressure, Correa claims he is impervious to it.

"There's definitely pressure and expectations and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, that stuff doesn't really matter," Appel said. "What matters is doing your job, day in and day out. When you step between the lines, everyone is on the same playing field. It doesn't matter if you were the first pick or an undrafted free agent."

Video: Top Prospects: Carlos Correa, SS, Astros

"[There is] really no pressure at all," Correa said. "I just go out there and have fun every single day. I play hard, play the game the right way, and talent will take care of everything else."

Both have posted impressive early numbers. Following an injury-shortened 2014 in which he earned Cal League All-Star honors, Correa has started 2015 by hitting a league-best .400 with five home runs, 22 RBIs, and a circuit-leading 11 doubles, through 17 games.

The native of Puerto Rico is the top-rated shortstop prospect in the game, according to MLB.com, and he doesn't take lightly the responsibility that came with being the island's first No. 1 overall Draft pick.

"All the kids look up to me, and they work hard to try to do the same things that I did," Correa said. "It's really good to be doing something for your country that inspires others to keep working hard and keep doing their best for themselves and for Puerto Rico."

Appel struggled when he started last season at Lancaster, but began to recover upon his promotion to Double-A and continued to improve in the Arizona Fall League. This year, he is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA through three starts, with 11 strikeouts in 14 innings.

"Toward the end of last year, I started to feel like myself again, who I usually am on the mound, and I tried to carry that over to the Fall League, and the offseason, and in Spring Training," Appel said.

Despite the high expectations, Linares said each player has stayed humble.

"If you see the way they interact, not only with the team, but also with the fans, you wouldn't think that they were first-rounders," the Hooks' skipper said. "These are two down-to-earth kids that go out there and do their jobs, and they're a pleasure to be around."

Correa, already a pro at dealing with the media, said there will always be a connection between Appel and him.

"I feel linked to him because he works really hard, he cares about his teammates and he goes about his business the right way all the time," he said.

Linares put it more simply.

"Their names are intertwined forever," he said. "One was picked one year, the other the next year, and they were both No. 1 and they've come up together. Hopefully they play for 15-20 years together in the big leagues, and help [the Astros] win a championship."

Chris Blake is a contributor to MLB.com.

Houston Astros