Cubs take Bryant at No. 2, Rockies grab righty Gray No. 3
Astros' No. 1 pick Mark Appel is Stanford's all-time strikeout leader with 372. (Phil Sears/AP)
By Danny Wild / MLB.com | June 6, 2013 7:38 PM ET
Mark Appel is headed back to Houston.
The Astros, owning the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight year, selected the Houston native with the top selection of the 2013 Draft on Thursday night. A 6-foot-5 right-hander, Appel was selected last year at No. 8 overall by the Pirates, but opted to remain at Stanford for his senior season. He follows high school shortstop Carlos Correa, the top pick in last year's Draft, to Houston.
"It means a lot, this has just been such a surreal moment for me and my family," Appel said on MLB Network. "Going back home is really an honor."
Appel, expected by many to be the first or second pick this year, owns a mid-90s fastball to go along with a hard slider and a circle change. He is Stanford's all-time strikeout leader with 372 and ranked third in the Pac-12 with a 2.12 ERA. A finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy as the top collegiate baseball player, Appel went 10-4 in 14 starts, throwing four complete games. He walked just 23 batters in 106 1/3 innings and was named the Pac-12's Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Appel failed to sign with the Pirates last season and said he doesn't regret the decision.
"I think a lot has changed -- my mentality toward the game, just going out and not necessarily proving myself but proving my abilities," he said. "I'm excited for it, I'm excited to see what God has in store for me and what he has planned next."
"To have a chance to have a top of the rotation guy like Mark, we felt like it was the best move to make for us," said Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. "We've got two very exciting talents that will help push our organziation forward."
Jonathan Gray, also expected by some to be the top pick, fell to No. 3 after the Cubs selected University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant second overall. Gray, a right-hander from the University of Oklahoma, went to the Rockies.
"I was completely ecstatic," Bryant said. "I think they want me at third base, and that's where I want to play. It's more of a challenge for me. It's always been a challenge for me, so I'm looking forward to it."
The Twins made Texas high school right-hander Kohl Stewart the third pitcher selected before Cleveland drafted Georgia high school third baseman Clint Frazier the fifth overall selection. Frazier was recently named the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year Award.
"I think throwing a football helped my arm out a lot," Stewart said. "I'm looking forward to being able to compete and work on baseball year round, every day. Whatever I can make of working on my game every day, I'm really excited to see how that works out."
"This is a dream come true," Frazier said. "It's very nerve-wracking seeing everyone go ahead of you and you're not selected. But seeing yourself drafted is a dream come true."
Frazier will form a talented infield duo in the Indians' Minor League system alongside shortstop Francisco Lindor, the organization's No. 1 prospect. The Loganville High School product said he's eager to join the scene in Cleveland.
"I want to get up there and play with them as soon as I can," he said.
As for Appel, the Astros are hopeful he will be the key to a turnaround for an organization trying to rebuild around youth.
"He's a polished college pitcher, and those guys tend to be able to move quickly," Luhnow said. "We're not in any rush. Getting him signed and in the Minors and getting his feet wet ... I believe in time, Mark Appel will be pitching in the top of the rotation and helping us win a pennant.
"We're absolutely thrilled that this came to a conclusion today and that we selected Mark Appel with the first selection in the draft," he added. "We believe he is a premium talent and we see him as a future potential ace. He's exactly the type of player that we need to be adding to the organization. He makes us significantly better and we believe this is a special player that is going to be a part of our championship team someday."
Nine players attended the Draft at MLB Network's Studio 42, including Dominic Smith, a high school first baseman from California who was selected No. 9 overall by the Mets.
"I'm at a loss for words, it's a great honor and opportunity," Smith said. "It's an incredible team, David Wright, Matt Harvey… hopefully I can come up and help the team out."
The Mariners took New Mexico third baseman D.J. Peterson, considered among the best hitters of the Draft class, with the No. 12 overall pick. Peterson's brother, Dustin, is also a candidate to be selected.
"It was incredible, I've been waiting for this all year, it's a once-in-a-lifetime type thing," Peterson said. "I've got my little brother sitting next to me, hopefully he comes off the board soon, but it's been incredible to share this with everyone here."
Peterson was previously drafted by the Mariners in the 33rd round of the 2010 Draft, but went to New Mexico instead. He led Team USA in home runs and RBIs over the summer before coming back to the Draft.
"My maturity, plate discipline, it allowed me to grow up a bit," he said. "My footwork got way better, my speed, my range at third, all those factors I needed to work on, and that's what I did. I'm gonna go show them I am a third baseman and I'll play third base until they move me."
University of Nevada ace Braden Shipley was drafted No. 15 overall by Arizona.
"I'm just super excited, I'm ready to play some ball," Shipley said. "After my sophomore season, I just made it a goal of mine to get stronger and gain some weight. I'm just really blessed, it's an exciting time for me and my family."
The first round also included a familiar name: JP Crawford, the cousin of Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford, was taken at No. 16 by the Phillies. Crawford, who said he's modeled his game after Derek Jeter and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, is excited to join the organization.
"It means a lot, hopefully I can learn something from [Rollins] and hopefully take his place," he said.
Having a Major League All-Star for a cousin doesn't hurt.
"(Carl) just told me it'll be a grind, but to always have fun."
Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 11:30 a.m. CT. Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at noon.