Two starts and five innings into his professional baseball career, the first overall pick in the 2013 draft will join the Quad-Cities River Bandits.
Mark Appel, a Stanford pitcher selected by Houston with the first selection in last month’s draft, is expected to arrive in the Quad-Cities today and is scheduled to make his first start for the River Bandits in Sunday’s 5 p.m. Midwest League game against Dayton.
Houston announced Appel’s promotion on Tuesday following his second start for short-season Tri-City in the New York-Penn League, part of a planned progression through the Astros’ minor-league system for the 21-year-old right hander who threw four complete games during a 10-4 season at Stanford.
When Appel signed last month, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow did not rule out the possibility that Appel could reach Double-A Corpus Christi before the end of the current season although his volume of work at each stop along the way is being limited.
“He pitched a number of innings (106 1/3) at the college level this year,’’ Luhnow said. “We do have a plan in mind, but we will reveal it one start at a time and see where it leads. We want to give him a taste of pro ball this year, but we will be smart about it.’’
Appel is the first pitcher taken first overall to play in the Midwest League since Luke Hochevar went 0-1 in four starts for Burlington in 2006 after being selected by the Royals with the first pick in that year’s draft.
The promotion for Appel is taking place now to give him a chance to pitch at home for Quad-Cities before it embarks on an extended road trip. After a six-game home stand ends Monday, the River Bandits do not play at Modern Woodmen Park again until hosting Peoria on July 30.
Appel made his pro debut last Friday, allowing two runs in a two-inning start for Tri-City. He followed with a three-inning start Tuesday, striking out five and allowing three hits in a walk-free outing.
When he is added to a River Bandits roster that already includes the No. 1 overall choice from the 2012 draft, shortstop Carlos Correa, Appel will become part of baseball history.
Never before in minor-league baseball history have consecutive No. 1 picks been part of the same roster and on only three previous occasions since baseball began its June free agent draft in 1965 have two No. 1 overall picks played for same team.
It has never happened below the AA level, where it most recently occurred in 1981 when Seattle Mariners top picks Al Chambers (1979) and Mike Moore (1981) played together for Lynn in the Eastern League.
However, Correa and Appel will not be on the same lineup card Sunday at Modern Woodmen Park, something which will likely occur for the first time when Quad-Cities is on the road. Correa will be in New York City that day, playing in the Futures Game as part of all-star festivities.