Blue Jays should gamble on Mark Appel
By Craig Borden
As the hot stove season gets going the Toronto Blue Jays are looking build depth. Mark Appel could be a low-risk high reward candidate to build on a solid foundation of pitchers North of the Border.
Three days ago the Philadelphia Phillies designated Mark Appel for assignment. The former first-round pick has a few more days left before the Phillies will have to trade or waive him. If he hits the waiver wire he could generate some buzz for many teams looking to fill there rotations and bullpens with live arms. Appel was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft. Appel landed with the Phillies as a result of the Astros trade for Ken Giles. He has been in the Phillies Minor League system since the start of the 2016 season.
In the Minor Leagues, Appel has been a conundrum for the Phillies organization. He has shown flashes of greatness but unable to sustain it. He has also struggled to stay on the field over the years along with some inconsistencies. He had a shoulder injury and a bone spur issue after joining the Phillies. These injuries limited him to just 38.1 innings in 2016 and 84 in 2017.
He had a rough start to his 2017 season as well. His ERA in April was 6.11 and in May was 7.16. He did find himself in June as he threw a 2.50 ERA. He also racked up 36 innings with 31 strikeouts. Just when Appel appeared to be getting on track this past June he hit the disabled list with the mentioned bone spurs in his elbow. He did come back at the end of the season but it was in relief but he was only able to log two innings.
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So you may ask why the Blue Jays would want to take a risk on a 26-year-old injury prone pitcher. This is the classic buy low candidate. Appel was a college standout which made him the highly sought after draft pick. He throws the ball hard and averages in the lower to mid 90’s and puts the ball over the plate. His secondary pitches are good. He features better than average sliders and changeups. This changing of speed led to plenty of strikeouts this past June.
The Blue Jays could bring Appel into Spring training on a waiver claim and see what he’s got. A change of scenery and surrounding him with pitchers like J.A. Happ could help him grow. Happ could be a great mentor for someone like Appel that has great raw talent but has struggled. Happ was a similar player in his early years and oddly enough played in the Astros and Phillies systems as well. The Blue Jays have also had success over the past few years with forming solid pitchers that others did not expect to perform. Marco Estrada was never thought of as a starter in Milwaukee and the Jays turned him into one of their best pitchers.
The Blue Jays should take a long hard look at Mark Appel. He has the talents to become a good pitcher if he can stay healthy. Maybe a change of scenery will help or he could be destined for the bullpen where he really could air out that nice arm. His smooth repeatable delivery seems effortless which could make him an easy reclamation project. This is some great depth for a team looking to fill out their roster with options that are better then the Mat Latos‘ and Brett Oberholtzer‘s the team had in Triple-A for 2017.