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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Looking past the stat line: Mark Appel

He still can’t be more of a disaster than The Apple...

Mark Appel’s 2014 Statistics

At High-A [Lancaster]: 44.1 IP, 9.74 ERA, 1.97 WHIP, 74 Hits, 11 BB, 40 K

At Double-A [Corpus Christi]: 26.1 IP, 4.10 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 28 Hits, 9 BB, 24 K...

Ron Shah of Baseball Prospectus saw three of his starts with Lancaster this season and was very critical of the profile he displayed during those starts. Shah reported that Appel sat 92-93 with the fastball and touched 94, but “mostly just grooves the offering over the plate.” Shah is more optimistic about the changeup, noting its deception and grading it as a future 60 offering (on the 20-80 scale), but is down on the slider. He grades this offering as a present 45 with a future grade of 50… A MiLB.com report after Appel’s scoreless Double-A debut noted that he began the game throwing his fastball in the 96-97 range and recorded all four of his strikeouts on the slider. His velocity in that start dipped to around the 90 MPH range later in the outing, but it is still encouraging to see the highly touted righty regain some of the form that was absent earlier this season.

Appel is a tricky case, as his terrible numbers in High-A are largely due to a four-run difference between his ERA and FIP, a .414 BABIP, and one of the most hitter-friendly home parks in the Minor Leagues. However, even if we remove his fluke of an ERA, many questions about the profile remain… the realistic expectation at this time is that he will be a low three or high number four starter in the Major Leagues… I’d have a tough time ranking such a player as high as 34 and would probably bump him down to about the 45-55 range, depending on his performance in his final few starts this season.

The District Attorney Posted: August 23, 2014 at 10:26 AM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, mark appel, minor leagues

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   1. kthejoker Posted: August 23, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4777723)
Additionally, the Astros had Appel stop at Minute Maid Park to throw a bullpen on his way to Double-A, a cool experience for the young pitcher that was met with an uproar from players and analysts.


Um, not really? Mostly just Jared Cosart, which is at least one of the reasons why he got shipped out.
   2. Spahn Insane Posted: August 23, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4777734)
I'm OK with the Cubs' having settled for Bryant...
   3. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 23, 2014 at 11:52 PM (#4777959)
As Gary Huckaby noted decades ago, TNSTAAPP ("There's no such thing as a pitching prospect").
   4. ursus arctos Posted: August 24, 2014 at 12:24 AM (#4777993)
I remain surprised that Lancaster retains a team, given the absolutely ridiculous conditions.

I just don't understand why a team would subject genuine pitching prospects to those conditions.
   5. Accent Shallow Posted: August 24, 2014 at 01:14 AM (#4778011)
I remain surprised that Lancaster retains a team, given the absolutely ridiculous conditions.

How much worse is Lancaster than Vegas or Colorado Springs?

(make up your own joke about the Mets and the Rockies' pitching prospects)
   6. bfan Posted: August 24, 2014 at 08:41 AM (#4778022)
Appel was scouted quite a bit over 2 draft eligible years (and had a lot of different eyes on him), while playing at the top level of college baseball (and thus facing very good competition). If there has not been any physical deterioration or injury (and it does not sound as if there has), what does that say about the ability to scout players? There are so many 94 mph fast balls out there; how can you figure out which are going to play at the MLB level? Doesn't TNSTAAPP refer to the inevitability of an arm injury somewhere along the journey to MLB, and not to a kid reaching his ceiling 1 year into the minors?
   7. ursus arctos Posted: August 24, 2014 at 08:44 AM (#4778023)
According to Minor League Central, Lancaster has a park factor of 115, compared to 110 for Colorado Springs and 106 for Las Vegas. The only higher park factors in the minors are Albuquerque's 122, Asheville's 123, and High Deserts' 119. The latter two are reflections of them being ridiculous (139, 141) home run parks.

I don't think that any of these places are good places to develop pitching prospects, but I also feel that a n extreme hiiter's park can be more destructive in High A than in AAA (Asheville is A) given the relevant levels of experience of the players.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: August 24, 2014 at 11:12 AM (#4778054)
As Gary Huckaby noted decades ago, TNSTAAPP ("There's no such thing as a pitching prospect").


A cute exaggeration which nobody actually believes.
   9. McCoy Posted: August 24, 2014 at 11:52 AM (#4778075)
Slowly lowers hand.
   10. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: August 24, 2014 at 02:33 PM (#4778138)
Never, never, never draft a Stanford pitcher.
   11. ReggieThomasLives Posted: August 24, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4778146)
According to Minor League Central, Lancaster has a park factor of 115, compared to 110 for Colorado Springs and 106 for Las Vegas. The only higher park factors in the minors are Albuquerque's 122, Asheville's 123, and High Deserts' 119. The latter two are reflections of them being ridiculous (139, 141) home run parks.


I'm not sure park factors alone tell you everything you need to know about Lancaster. If they are league adjusted, a league mostly full of pitchers parks could make a moderate hitters park rate out as a 115+.

For example, the PCL is notorious for high offensive parks. The entire Reno Aces team is hitting .294/.356/.455/.811 at home. One might think their park is the AAA version of Coors field, but it's park rating is "only" 113 as the league line is .275/.343/.424/.768 this year.

Now that I've pontificated, checking the California league finds, oops, it's almost identical to the PCL with a .270/.340/.426/.766 this year. But obviously it's a much lower level with far fewer MLB ready hitters and I think Appel is going to have far tougher challenges before he makes the majors. Stumbling in Lancaster is still concerning despite how good his rate stats are.
   12. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 24, 2014 at 03:28 PM (#4778168)
A cute exaggeration which nobody actually believes.


You really need to visit Baseball Prospectus, where a lot of people believe it. Some even write articles about it.
   13. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 24, 2014 at 03:29 PM (#4778170)
"'There's no such thing as a pitching prospect' (TNSTAAPP, for short) is actually a shorthand way of expressing the idea that minor-league pitchers are an unpredictable, unreliable subset of baseball players." - Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus
   14. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: August 24, 2014 at 07:06 PM (#4778264)
Never, never, never draft a Stanford pitcher.


Mike Mussina and Jack McDowell say hello. And FWIW, Jeff Ballard (whom my wife tutored in math at Stanford), was decent for a couple of years.

More recently, Drew Storen has been pretty good. Jeremy Guthrie and Rick Helling have both provided ~ 20 WAR. Are there any notable busts?
   15. Astroenteritis (tom) Posted: August 24, 2014 at 08:47 PM (#4778302)
I find it hilarious that folks are ready to declare Appel a bust after less than one year as a professional, a year marked by health and injury problems, along with pitching in Lancaster. Is it really a disaster if he turns out to be a #3?
   16. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 24, 2014 at 11:28 PM (#4778351)
People always expect top picks to become elite performers, and are always disappointed when they don't.

Even though this happens more than anyone would care to admit.
   17. PreservedFish Posted: August 25, 2014 at 12:10 AM (#4778361)
You really need to visit Baseball Prospectus, where a lot of people believe it. Some even write articles about it.


Baseball Prospectus listed about 50 pitchers in its last Top 100 prospects list.

"'There's no such thing as a pitching prospect' (TNSTAAPP, for short) is actually a shorthand way of expressing the idea that minor-league pitchers are an unpredictable, unreliable subset of baseball players." - Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus


In other words, it's a cute exaggeration.
   18. Squash Posted: August 25, 2014 at 01:36 AM (#4778375)
Never, never, never draft a Stanford pitcher.

I thought it was never draft a Stanford hitter, as they make them swing the bat in a way that saps their power.
   19. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: August 25, 2014 at 02:31 AM (#4778383)
I just don't understand why a team would subject genuine pitching prospects to those conditions.


It's probably because Lancaster has a pretty nice and relatively new park. It's about the same age and size as most the southern division teams (aside from Bakersfield) in the Cal League. IIRC, it was built in '96 or so. My first job was working in a concession stand for the Riverside Pilots in '95 and they moved the next season to Lancaster the next season.

I haven't been to the park in Lancaster, but by the photos I've seen, it looks pretty similar to San Bernardino and Rancho Cucamonga. They are both really nice parks. The park I just don't understand is the one in Adelanto (High Desert). It just isn't that nice. I mean, it's nicer than the Sports Complex in Riverside where they played before, but it isn't that much nicer. The balls fly out of that yard like crazy and the climate sucks. I guess the climate isn't much better in Lancaster, either, but again.. nice stadium.
   20. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: August 25, 2014 at 08:44 AM (#4778396)
On Lancaster baseball: WSJ piece and YouTube clip
   21. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: August 25, 2014 at 09:19 AM (#4778410)
Appel's had trouble with his fastball command going back to his junior season, where he has to dial it down to 92-94 in order to control it. He reminds me of a couple of big, polished college power pitchers with fastball command issues: Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber.
   22. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 25, 2014 at 10:59 AM (#4778505)
According to Minor League Central, Lancaster has a park factor of 115, compared to 110 for Colorado Springs and 106 for Las Vegas. The only higher park factors in the minors are Albuquerque's 122, Asheville's 123, and High Deserts' 119.


I was going to mention league counts as well, but #11 beat me to it.

The trouble with High Desert and Albuquerque isn't so much that they are hitter sparks, it's that they are hitters parks in hitters leagues

Asheville may be a major hitters park in comparison to the Sallie League, but league is 4.61, meaning an average team playing half its games in Asheville would score about 5.14 runs per game
The California league sees 5.19 runs per games on average - so Lancaster at 115 means that an average Cal league team playing half it's games there would see 5.57 runs/game


   23. madvillain Posted: August 25, 2014 at 01:06 PM (#4778629)
Carlos Rodon (75P, 4IP, 8K, 2BB, 1H, 1ER) in AAA Charlotte laughs at TINSTAPP and will probably be in Chicago in a couple weeks. Seriously though TINSTAAPP is a good rule of thumb, but there are exceptions to every rule.
   24. PreservedFish Posted: August 25, 2014 at 01:14 PM (#4778640)
Seriously though TINSTAAPP is a good rule of thumb, but there are exceptions to every rule.

It really isn't even a good rule of thumb. Pitchers are more unpredictable than hitters, sure, but pitching prospects are still real.
   25. madvillain Posted: August 25, 2014 at 02:31 PM (#4778730)
sure, but pitching prospects are still real.


Well if you take it to mean "pitching prospects flame out more than hitting prospects due to _____" then fine. If you take it literally yea that's a problem.
   26. bfan Posted: August 25, 2014 at 03:35 PM (#4778787)
Is it really a disaster if he turns out to be a #3?


It wouldn't be a disaster, but for this signee, it would be very surprising if that is his ceiling, and that ceiling is defined before injury.
   27. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: August 25, 2014 at 05:38 PM (#4778959)
More recently, Drew Storen has been pretty good. Jeremy Guthrie and Rick Helling have both provided ~ 20 WAR. Are there any notable busts?


Helling has been retired for a dog's age, and Guthrie didn't do anything useful until his age-28 season, by which time he'd been waived out of his drafting organization.

And yes, there are tons of notable busts. Greg Reynolds, Jeff Austin, Justin Wayne, Kyle Peterson, Jeremy Bleich, Jason Young, Chad Hutchinson, Mike Gosling, etc... And none of them signed for cheap, because it's Stanford.
   28. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: August 25, 2014 at 08:31 PM (#4779016)
his terrible numbers in High-A are largely due to a four-run difference between his ERA and FIP, a .414 BABIP

Pro tip: *major league* BABIP falls in a narrow band precisely because the guys who last any amount of time in the majors, with rare exceptions like Glendon Rusch, have been selected for their skill in that department. When someone gets cuffed around in the minors, you don't shrug and assume he'll regress toward the mean of a population that's demonstrated a talent he may not possess.
   29. Ziggy Posted: August 25, 2014 at 10:19 PM (#4779055)
"*major league* BABIP falls in a narrow band precisely because the guys who last any amount of time in the majors... have been selected for their skill in that department."

This is a VERY important point. That pitchers tend towards a .300 BABIP isn't a law of nature; rather, humans, with the rarest exception, are unable to hold the best hitters to a BABIP lower than .300. Since having a high BABIP is a great way to be a bad pitcher, only the people who are the very best at limiting BABIP pitch a significant number of innings in the majors. That's why major league pitchers tend towards a .300 BABIP. For minor leaguers, however, their ability to limit hits on balls in play is definitely an important consideration.

Which is just what Lance was saying, but it deserve emphasis.
   30. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 25, 2014 at 11:05 PM (#4779067)
You really need to visit Baseball Prospectus, where a lot of people believe it. Some even write articles about it.


You really need to realize that some of us are older than 20, and read those articles when they first went online 15 years ago.
   31. billyshears Posted: August 25, 2014 at 11:30 PM (#4779088)
This is a VERY important point. That pitchers tend towards a .300 BABIP isn't a law of nature; rather, humans, with the rarest exception, are unable to hold the best hitters to a BABIP lower than .300. Since having a high BABIP is a great way to be a bad pitcher, only the people who are the very best at limiting BABIP pitch a significant number of innings in the majors. That's why major league pitchers tend towards a .300 BABIP. For minor leaguers, however, their ability to limit hits on balls in play is definitely an important consideration.


This is true, but you also can't just assume the BABIP of any given minor league pitcher is evidence of a skill or lack thereof. Minor league pitchers are much closer to those rarest exceptions than they are to the rest of humanity. While one can't merely regress minor league BABIP to the mean, my hunch is that you'll get closer to the truth by doing so than by not doing so. Also, minor league fielding sucks.
   32. Ziggy Posted: August 25, 2014 at 11:49 PM (#4779101)
Sounds good. I'll sign on to both of those points. And I imagine regression becomes more important the higher you get in the minors.
   33. Norcan Posted: August 27, 2014 at 01:40 AM (#4779771)
Appel had the best and longest start of his professional career Tuesday night, going 8 shutout innings, giving up only 2 hits, walking 1 and striking out 10. More interesting to me was, in watching a highlight of one of his strikeouts, was the change in his mechanics. He's now bringing his hands up to his face as part of standing taller in his delivery. He used to crouch over and surrender the 6'5 frame he was blessed with. I don't know when he made this change but if this was his first start with this change, it made an immediate improvement. I just like seeing the different processes pitchers or hitters go through in their development. Last season, Jon Gray, the third overall pick, started heaving his hands way up near his temple. From the centerfield camera, he looked absolutely ridiculous but his numbers were fantastic. This year he's fluctuated between raising his hands chest high to keeping them down at his waist. I would go back to looking ridiculous if I were him.

One of the most radical changes I've seen from a pitcher is from A.J. Cole, a top pitching prospect for the Nationals, because he changed his arm action. Most of the mechanical tweaks tend to be how they pivot from the windup or how they move or don't move their hands into a gathering point or stride length and so on but arm actions tend not to change. Cole went from having a stab in his delivery from which he picked the ball up with his elbow (pretty conventional) to having a kind of windmill motion in which the ball is above the elbow in the ascent part of his delivery.
   34. Ron J2 Posted: August 27, 2014 at 09:19 AM (#4779820)
#30 And some of us remember Gary first using the TINSTAAP on RSB.

And yeah, Gary was all about hyperbole. My first exchange with him came in response to his claiming that Tony Phillips was a better player than Pete Rose had been.
   35. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 27, 2014 at 10:50 AM (#4779873)
Hyperbole was part of the institutional stance of BP back in those days. Might still be -- I haven't read it in years -- but exaggeration and caustic barbs were basically the brand in their early annuals. It appealed to me a lot more when I was younger than it does now. It also plays differently now that the nerds have won the war.

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