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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Astros players resent Mark Appel’s promotion to Double-A

Mark AppelHaving a 9.74 ERA in the minor leagues would usually result in a pitcher being released. In Mark Appel’s case, it led to a promotion. And that has members of the Houston Astros peeved.

Appel, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, was promoted from High-A Lancaster where he was struggling, to Double-A Corpus Christi. He was in Houston Sunday throwing a bullpen session at Minute Maid Park in front of Astros pitching coach Brent Strom. His presence at the park and seemingly undeserved promotion rankled some Astros.

“Unbelievable,” an anonymous Astros player told the Houston Chronicle. “I’m not in a good mood.”

Then there were these tweets from Astros reporter Jose de Jesus Ortiz:

An Astros player compared Appel, who is 2-5 with a 9.74 ERA over 12 starts for Lancaster, with Josh Hader, who is 9-1 with a 2.46 ERA for the Jethawks.

“So now you get rewarded for having an 11 ERA? And you have two guys down there (at Class A Lancaster) with 2 ERAs who can’t get called up?” the player said.

Unlike Appel who was highly touted and highly paid, Hader was a 19th-round pick by the Baltimore Orioles in 2012. He has progressed through the minors slowly despite performing well at every level. He spent his first year in rookie ball and low-A, his second in A-ball and now he’s dominating high-A. If he keeps going this way, he’ll probably end up promoted before too long.

If Appel had been performing so poorly, why did the Astros promote him? He put together his best outing of the season on Thursday in which he allowed five hits and struck out 7 over six scoreless. It’s pretty sad that that was his best outing of the season … and it’s just as bad that that’s all Houston felt it needed to see to promote him. The Astros feel a mechanical adjustment Appel made led to the change.

A few other things to consider about Appel’s struggles are that he had an appendectomy in January and may not have been at full health/strength early in the season. He also had tendinitis in his right thumb. Plus, Houston uses a tandem pitching system in the minors. Rather than have it like a big league club with five pitchers each getting a start in different days, they pair starters together and have both pitch the same game. Since they have four tandems per team, starters are going every fourth day. It’s possible that their system has messed with the routine Appel is used to.

However you look at it, Appel’s promotion does seem premature and undeserved, so the uproar is more than understandable.

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