Stanford's Mark Appel selected first overall in MLB draft
The Houston Astros selected Stanford pitcher Mark Appel with the first pick in the 2013 MLB draft, bringing an arduous selection journey full circle with the senior right hander -- a Houston native -- on top.
"When I saw Houston had the first pick, I was like, man, that can't be a coincidence," Mark Appel told me in an interview before last year's MLB draft, in which he was projected to be picked by the Astros first overall. "I can definitely see God's hand in that."
It turns out that Appel was not picked first in that 2012 draft. He wasn't selected second, either, or even third. The flamethrower became a victim of several prearranged deals that were sparked by the MLB's new collective bargaining agreement rules, and he fell all the way to the Pittsburgh Pirates at eighth overall.
Appel ultimately turned down the big money to return to Stanford and graduate, taking heat from scores of disgruntled fans in the process.
"The bottom line is, I turned down $3.8 million to get my college degree," Appel told ESPN.com's Tim Keown before the draft. "If you want to criticize me for that, so be it."
It's impossible to rationally fault him now. The hometown Astros have selected Appel first overall, after all. This is the first time ever that a Stanford baseball player has been taken with the first pick of the MLB draft. It just happened one year later than many expected.
"Last year was a different circumstance," Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We couldn't pass on the opportunity this time."
Prior to today's selection, Appel executed his return to school with perfection. On the strength of improved fastball location and further refinement of his slider and change-up (a third plus pitch), he improved statistically in 2013. Appel posted a 2.12 ERA this past season while striking out a career-best 130 batters and walking only 23. He broke Stanford's career strikeout record, finishing with 372 on his college career. To add icing onto the cake, he will receive his Stanford diploma in management science and engineering 10 days from Thursday.
"My goals were to finish my degree, become a better baseball player, person and teammate," Appel said. "I accomplished those things."
That's all before money is taken into consideration: $7,790,400 dollars are slotted for the MLB draft's first overall pick -- nearly $4 million more than the amount Appel turned down after the 2012 draft.
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"This is a surreal moment for me," Appel said. "Knowing I'm going back home [to Houston]."
The fairytale ride likely won't end here: Several experts have publicly stated that Appel is ready for big league action. His journey is only beginning.
He joins Andrew Luck (NFL) and Nneka Ogwumike (WNBA) as the third Stanford athlete to be taken first overall in the past 60 weeks.
David Lombardi has covered Pac-12 baseball since 2007. He’s a play-by-play voice and on-air reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.