Results tagged ‘ Mark Appel ’

Thurman set to sign with Astros, Appel far behind?

Right-handed pitcher Andrew Thurman, taken by the Astros with the first pick of the second round in last week’s First-Year Player Draft out UC-Irvine, told MLB.com on Friday he had agreed to a contract with the Astros and was set to sign early next week.

Thurman, taken with the No. 40 overall pick, is scheduled to fly to Houston on Sunday and take a physical and sign his contract on Monday. He said he plans to report to the Astros’ short-season Tri-City affiliate.

“I’m just very excited,” he said. “I feel honored and very blessed to have this opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the Astros will soon their attention to No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, a right-handed pitcher from Stanford. A report by Jeff Passan of Yahoo on Friday indicated the Astros and Appel were “nearing a deal” and could have an agreement by next week.

In a text message to MLB.com, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow wrote the club plans to engage Appel next week. He graduates from Stanford on Sunday. The prescribed slot bonus for the No. 1 pick is $7.8 million.

“I’m hopeful we can move quickly once we start [the] dialogue, but there is no timeframe yet,” Luhnow wrote.

The Astros announced the signing of nine additional draft picks Thursday, bringing the total number signed to 14. That doesn’t include fourth-round pick Conrad Gregor of Vanderbilt, who has signed, or Thurman, who the Astros envision of a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

“It’s what I’ve always been working towards,” Thurman said. “It’s been my dream since I was a little kid to play professional baseball. It’s kind of a surreal feeling, but I still have to work hard. That part of me hasn’t gone anywhere.”

Terms of the Thurman deal aren’t known, but the slot bonus for that pick is $1,397,200.

When asked about Thurman on Friday, Astros scouting director Mike Elias said: “We feel talks are going very smoothly and we expect he will sign at some point, too. Both sides are making progress, everybody’s on the same page. He hasn’t signed a contract yet, so nothing is finalized. We anticipate getting him into an Astros uniform sooner or later.”

Thurman’s fastball could be a plus pitch in the future — he can reach back for a mid-90s heater when he needs to. He throws a curve and a slider, with the former a bit better than the latter, and his changeup is a deceptive offspeed offering.

Thurman’s good command lets his stuff play up and he can move his fastball in and out, going right after hitters with his very strong feel for pitching. That was on full display in the Cape Cod League last summer, when he struck out 49 hitters over 39 innings in seven starts.

“He was somebody we viewed as late first-round talent, and to get him at 40, we were a little surprised he was there,” Elias said when Thurman was drafted. “We’re very comfortable calling him a mid-rotation starter in the future.”

Appel’s homecoming a thrill for Little League coach

No one associated with the Post Oak Little League from a decade ago could have ever imagined any of their young players would ever be the first pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, much less be selected by the hometown Astros. That’s fairytale kind of stuff.

Back then, the top concern of coach Cary Gray was hoping the players would make their high school teams in the following few years. All of the Little Leaguers were able to accomplish that, and one went on to do so much more when it came to baseball.

Right-handed pitcher Mark Appel, who was coached by Gray for 3 1/2 years in the Post Oak Little League on the west side of Houston, was drafted No. 1 overall by the hometown Astros on Thursday following a terrific career Stanford, and now a community is bursting with pride.

“It’s surreal,” said Gray, a Houston lawyer. “I saw something [general manager] Jeff Luhnow said about it had to be every kid’s dream come true. We all follow the Astros, watched them play and suddenly to see that happen, who would have thought it? We used to worry about the kids making their high school teams. We never gave any thought to one of them being the No. 1 pick in the Draft.”

Gray still keeps in touch with Appel and exchanged text messages with him Thursday night after the pick was made. He talks with pride about the man Appel has become and is proud of him for returning to Stanford to get his degree.

“He was a really nice kid [in Little League],” he said. “He was a solid citizen and always has been, and he kind of did everything he did with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. He was there to prove himself, and that’s why he’s done so well.”

Gray’s father had season tickets to the Astros since they began playing in the Astrodome, and Gray now has season tickets for Minute Maid Park and attends games when he can. But when Appel makes that first start for the Astros, he will clear his schedule to be there.

“I can barely imagine it right now, to be honest,” he said. “I’m sure it will be a thrill for all of us. It’s been a lot of fun watching this.”

Gray said Appel’s grandparents and other relatives still live in Houston, where Appel lived until he was 12 years old before moving to California.

Appel thrilled to be coming home to Houston

Here is the transcript of Mark Appel’s conference call with the Houston media on Thursday:

Q: Looking back a year later, not signing with the Pirates and getting drafted by the Astros, did this turn out about as well as you could have imagined?

A: “I don’t think I necessarily had an end goal in mind when I turned down the Pirates’ offer. My goals were to finish my degree, to become a better baseball player, a better person and better teammate. As far as that goes, I think I accomplished those things. No matter what happened in the Draft, I knew I had done everything that was in my control to put myself in the best situation possible.”

Q: How special is this night for you and your family being chosen the No. 1 pick in the Draft?

A: “It’s incredibly special. We’re a tight family. Both my parents were born there [in Houston] and raised there and I lived there for 12 years before moving to California. All my family lives there. It’s very exciting. It was really exciting to have conversations with Mr. Luhnow. “

Q: How big is the signability issue with Scott [Boras] and your agent?

A: “Yes, Mr. Boras is my agent, and he will handle most of the negotiations. I think obviously I will be very involved, but it will go through… I trust him and he’s done a great job so far.”

Q:  The extra year, what area of your game improved the most by going back to this past season and getting another year under your belt?

A: “I think the biggest area for me was fastball command and commanding it down in the zone. That really made all my other pitches better. I still think I had a better feel for both my off-speed pitches as the season went on, but the big focus was the fastball command for me and I think once I got that, it really helped my overall game.”

Q: What are you memories of being here in Houston, being a baseball fan and maybe going to the Dome and following the Astros?

A: “I have a lot of great memories. I do remember going to a few games in the Astrodome. My dad’s work had season tickets they split up between a number of people and we got to go to a few games every year. I even remember when Minute Maid Park opened and how great of a ballpark that is. I remember playing Little League baseball at Post Oak Little League and the great summers I had with a bunch of great friends. I’ve gotten some calls and texts from those guys and kept in touch. The friendships and memories I created while I was in Houston were great and still even when I’m back to visit family, new memories have been created every single time.”

Q: How about a timetable when you think you will sign?

A: “That is involved in the negotiation process. As for me, I’m just spending time with my family. I know if at all it would be after graduation. I have a few things planned this summer with family. Obviously, graduation is important. I’m not really sure about the timetable and I really don’t know if I could give you an exact answer.”

Q: Do you have your arms around what’s happened here?

A: “It’s definitely been quite the year. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had my ups and downs and I’ve become a better person and better ballplayer because of it.”

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