Picking Appel(s)

Consider for a second if Andrew Luck fell in the draft to the Miami Dolphins at the 8th pick. A player with pro caliber skills and huge upside dropping from the projected 1st pick in the draft, plummeting out of the top 5, and falling into the lap of the Dolphins. Well that obviously did not happen. Andrew Luck went 1st overall to the Colts and all was right in the sporting world. However, the same cannot be said for fellow Stanford Junior, Mark Appel. Although not a once in a generation prospect, like Luck was dubbed, the Cardinal ace was projected to be the number 1 pick throughout the season and go to his hometown Astros.

In his junior year, Appel went 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA and fanned 127 in 119 innings. He only allowed 26 walks and opposing hitters posted an abysmal .210 against him this season. Stanford is headed to the Super Regional’s in this year’s College World Series spearheaded by Appel’s strong right arm.

The stars were aligning for the stud RHP heading into tonight’s MLB draft; he was going 1st overall and heading to his hometown of Houston to play for the Astros. However, all this changed when commissioner Bud Selig announced that the Astros had selected SS Carlos Correa with the first pick of the draft. From there on pick after pick rolled by yet Appel’s name remained at the top of the board for undrafted prospects. Finally, with the 8th pick in the draft the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Mark Appel and added depth to a team already loaded with pitching prospects. Both Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole already rank in the Top 10 of the Top 100 prospects and each are having an All-Star season in High-A ball in the Florida State League. The addition of Mark Appel just bolsters this future pitching staff and gives the Pirates a very real chance at the best rotation in baseball in the near future.


Interview with Mark Appel

I recently corresponded with Mark Appel via email, and was more than impressed with his attitude and politeness to a start-up blogger. I will just reprint the conversation below. However I first want to remind readers that Mark will be opening the season tonight at home against the Vanderbilt Commodores at 5:30 PT. This should be an amazing match-up, and I am going to try and watch. After the game a scouting report of Appel and recap of the game will both be posted. Bro Scouts can’t thank Mark enough for taking time out of his day to reply to us, we will be rooting for him tonight!

A: What do you think was the major difference between Mark the pitcher as a freshman and as a sophomore?

Mark Appel:  I would say faith is the biggest thing that changed from my freshman to sophomore year. Faith that the things to come in this life are taken care of and are in my best interest, whether that is playing baseball or not. Once I figured that out, it really freed me from all the worries and anxiousness of not performing well or what the coaches thought about me. One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:28 which states, “For we know that God causes all things to work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.” So when you think about it like that, nothing can really stress you out anymore!

A: What was it like pitching in the Cape Cod league playoffs? 

MA: The Cape was a great experience and the playoffs were the pinnacle of that experience. The fans, the atmosphere, the talent. It was all so exciting and just so much fun. We went out there without any expectations and the results took care of themselves (almost made it to the championship series).

A: Do you think about the MLB draft all? Or about the chance to play for your hometown Astros?

MA: Honestly, not really. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus is talking about worrying and finishes with verse 34 saying, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” If any emotions come from it, it is more excitement than anything, but right now, the season is first and foremost and the draft will come when it comes. It is just a blessing to be playing the sport I love and I am just so thankful for God giving me the talent to play, my parents for supporting me to get to where I am now and where I am going, and also Coach Marquess, Stotz, and Filter for giving me an opportunity to play at Stanford University.

A: What attributes do you bring to the table as the “ace” of a pitching staff?

MA: I hope that I bring more attributes off the field than I do on the field. I know that for our team to do well, we need leaders in the clubhouse that bring encouragement and support for each other, and I hope that I can do that, while also doing the best I can on the mound.

A: Finally, a situation: 2-2 count, bases loaded, you desperately need an out, what are you throwing?

MA: Well, I never know who might be reading this, so I’m going to have to say it depends on the batter (haha). But I’ve definitely been working on being comfortable to throw all 3 pitches in a situation like that to go for the K!

NFL Combine: 40-yard Dash

The NFL Scouting Combine is just a little over a week away. Hundreds of hope filled college football players will flock to Indianapolis, Indiana to be physically and mentally tested in order to prove themselves in front of scouts, coaches, and general managers alike.  Beginning February 22 inside Lucas-Oil Stadium, some of the most talented players in the NCAA will present their talents, which can potentially either make or break their draft stock.  At the combine, athletes will have their abilities put to the test through the following categories: 40-yard dash, 3 cone drill, 20 yard shuttle, 60-yard shuttle, Bench press (225 lb repetitions), Vertical jump, Broad jump, and other position-specific drills and tests.

This article will focus on the 40-yard dash of the combine.  The 40-yard dash is the main drill used in football to gauge the speed of a prospect and probably the most important drill in the combine.  Differences of tenths of a second can be all that separates a first rounder and a second day choice.  A miniscule amount of time can literally cost a prospect millions of dollars, making this drill the most exciting at the combine.

The 40-yard dash actually has a strange history. Famous coach and the “father of the modern offense” Paul Brown wanted to have his fastest players on punt coverage and decided to test the players in a 40-yard increment (the average punt then).  He wanted his players on punt coverage to be faster than 4.50 (the average hang time of a punt) so that they would be able to cover the punt effectively.  Little did he know how influential this special-teams drill would become. The 40-yard dash is now broken up into 3 segments.  Prospects are timed at 10, 20, and 40 yards to see a players burst and to see how long it takes to reach full-speed.

Below I focus on the five fastest individual 40-yard dashes within the past 5 drafts.

5. Darrius Heyward-Bey

 Position: Wide Receiver

College: Maryland

Draft: 2009

Darrius Heyward-Bey ran a 4.30 at his NFL Combine.  The speedster was then surprisingly chosen 7th overall in the 1st round of the 2009 NFL draft.  In his 3 years in the NFL, Heyward-Bay has caught 99 passes for 1,465 yards, while averaging close to 15 yards a reception.  Of those 99 catches, 6 of them have gone for touchdowns. Heyward-Bey had his best season by far last year and should be carefully watched next year, especially since he finally has a decent quarterback in Carson Palmer.

4. Yamon Figurs

Position: Wide Receiver

College: Kansas State

Draft: 2007

Figurs was drafted 74th overall in the 3rd round by the Baltimore Ravens after posting a 4.30 in the dash.  Since then he bounced around the league and has been on the roster for the Lions, Buccaneers, Raiders, Browns, and most recently the Tennessee Titans.  In 5 seasons the WR has only caught 5 passes, one of which went for a touchdown.

3. DeMarcus Van Dyke

Position: Cornerback

College: University of Miami

Draft: 2011

DeMarcus Van Dyke, Cornerback, sprinted a 4.28 at his combine and was selected in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft by the Oakland Raiders with the 74th overall pick.  Last year in his rookie season Van Dyke had 13 tackles and 1 interception, certainly not earth shattering numbers but it’s still early and we’ll see how he develops as an NFL corner.

2. Jacoby Ford

Position: Wide Receiver

College: Clemson

Draft: 2010

Jacoby Ford, Wide Receiver, also ran a 4.28 in his combine and was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 4th round of the 2010 draft with the 104th overall pick.  In the 2010 season Ford was selected as the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week for Week 9 and was also chosen as the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month.  While not a break out player, Ford has been fairly solid for the Raiders and can create a big play with his unbelievable speed. In his 2 seasons Ford has caught 44 passes for 749 yards averaging out to 17 yards per reception. He also has 3 TD receptions.

1. Chris Johnson

Position: Running Back

College: East Carolina University

Draft: 2008

Chris Johnson has the best time of anyone at the combine in the last 5 years.  The superstar running back posted a 4.24 and blazed his way into the first round.  He was selected 24th overall in the 2008 draft by the Tennessee Titans and hasn’t looked back since.  He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and is a 3-time Pro Bowler. In 2009 he was selected as the NFL Offensive Player of the Year and posted one of the best seasons for an NFL running back ever.  That season, Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards and had a total of 2,509 yards from scrimmage (an NFL record). In his 4 years Johnson has amassed 5,645 yards in 1,187 attempts, averaging 4.8 yards per carried and 38 touchdowns.  He has also caught 194 passes for 1,426 yards, averaging 7.4 yards per reception and 4 touchdowns.  Unfortunately Chris Johnson had his worst season ever last year, in part due to his hold out for more money, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs next year.

Speed is a tricky thing to appraise; you could end up with a superstar like Chris Johnson or a complete bust like Yamon Figurs.  Speed is extremely important; it can create big plays and is usually a hallmark of big playmakers.  However, if not coupled with the right tool set, blazing speed can turn out to be fairly useless.  One of the only things fairly certain about speed is that if you possess it you’ll probably end up a Raider.

NFL Mock Draft (version 1.0 pre-Combine)

Pick Number Team TAG’s Picks A’s Picks
1 Indianapolis Colts Andrew Luck-QB Andrew Luck-QB
2 St Louis Rams Matt Kalil-OT Matt Kalil-OT
3 Minnesota Vikings Justin Blackmon-WR Riley Rieff-OT
4 Cleveland Browns Robert Griffin III-QB Robert Griffin III-QB
5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Trent Richardson-RB Morris Claiborne-CB
6 Washington Redskins Maurice Claiborne-CB Justin Blackmon-WR
7 Jacksonville Jaguars Quinton Coples-DE Quinton Copies-DE
8 Carolina Panthers Michael Brockers-DT Melvin Ingram-DE/OLB
9 Miami Dolphins Riley Reiff-OT Jonathan Martin-OT
10 Buffalo Bills Courtney Upshaw-LB Devon Still-DT
11 Kansas City Chiefs Jonathon Martin-OT David DeCastro-G
12 Seattle Seahawks Devon Still-DT Trent Richardson-RB
13 Arizona Cardinals David Decastro-OG Dre Kirkpatrick-CB
14 Dallas Cowboys Dre Kirkpatrick-CB Janoris Jenkins-CB
15 Philadelphia Eagles Luke Kuechly-LB Luke Kuechly-LB
16 New York Jets Mark Barron-SS Mark Barron-S
17 Cincinnati Bengals Janoris Jenkins-CB Alfonzo Dennard-CB
18 San Diego Chargers Nick Perry-LB Courtney Upshaw-OLB
19 Chicago Bears Michael Floyd-WR Kendal Wright-WR
20 Tennessee Titans Cordy Glenn-OT Michael Brocker-DT
21 Cincinnati Bengals Lamar Miller-RB Lamar Miller-RB
22 Cleveland Browns Dwayne Allen-TE Michael Floyd-WR
23 Detroit Lions Zach Brown-LB Cordy Glenn-G
24 Pittsburgh Steelers Donarti Poe-DT Kelechi Osemele-OT
25 Denver Broncos Jerel Worthy-DT Dontari Poe-DT
26 Houston Texans Kendall Wright-WR Dwayne Allen-TE
27 New England Patriots Melvin Ingram-LB Fletcher Cox-DT
28 Green Bay Packers Fletcher Cox-DT Zach Brown-LB
29 Baltimore Ravens Peter Konz-C Vontaze Burflict-LB
30 San Francisco 49ers Alshon Jeffery-WR Mohamed Sanu-WR
31 New England Patriots Andre Branch-DE Alshon Jeffries-WR
32 New York Giants Mike Adams-OT Dont’a Hightower-LB

Who is Mark Appel?

The early favorite for the number one pick in the 2012 MLB Draft?  Yes.  The staff ace of a top-five Stanford Cardinal team with title hopes?  Yes.  A devout Christian?  Yes.  A 6′ 6″ twenty-year old with a cannon for a right arm?  Yes.  If you are a casual baseball fan than you probably haven’t heard much about Mark Appel, yet. This draft class does not have the same hype as the Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg years, but don’t count out the talent of Appel, whose skills haven’t even peaked yet. I think that he has the highest ceiling of any pitcher taken in the last few years.

Mark was born in July, 1991 in Houston, Texas but later moved to California. He attended Monte Vista High School where he played baseball, and as a senior was drafted in the 15th round by the Detroit Tigers. However, Appel decided to accept a scholarship to attend Stanford and is currently majoring in Management and Science & Engineering. As a freshman, while working mostly out of the bullpen  Appel struggled. Over the course of 38.0 IP, Mark posted a 2-1 record with a 5.92 ERA, and a 26 SO/19 BB ratio.  Opponents batted .295 against him.

Everything seemed to change after that freshman year, as Appel clearly developed better control. As a sophomore, Mark went 6-7 in 110.1 IP, working as the Cardinal’s Friday night starter. He worked is ERA down to 3.02, with a 86 SO/29 BB ratio and opponent batting average of .277. These are good, but not fantastic stats. However his stuff, and performance in the famous Cape Cod League had led to Appel’s status as top RHP on the draft board.

Mark Appel will be taken in the first round of the MLB Draft, on June 4th. My guess is that he will be an Astro. Expectations are high, and he has a great supporting staff at Stanford. I will be adding a Mark Appel Tracker page to this blog to keep track of his starts and stats. I also reached out to Mark with a few quick questions and I will post his responses very soon. He is also fairly active on Twitter if you want to follow him: @mappel26. Check out this page for Bro Scout’s full scouting report on this future ace.

The New NFL

The NFL is evolving, the name of the game is passing, and the league’s most important players are shifting.  Other than quarterback, no position on offense was more crucial for success than the tight end.  An elite running back, although previously coveted, is becoming increasingly less and less important in the new NFL, especially considering their short shelf life. Tight ends are the new X-factor.  It is no coincidence that New England, with Gronkowski and Hernandez, New Orleans, with Graham, and San Fransisco, with Davis, all made it deep into the playoffs this year. An athletic tight end is impossible to stop in the right system. Linebackers are too slow and corner backs are too small, which is why a dominant TE should be extremely sought out.  A good one can make life easy for a quarterback, and honestly, who doesn’t want that?

This all brings me to why I am already choosing my steal of the draft…Dwayne Allen. This award winning TE out of Clemson has already declared for the draft and has the tools to be a dominant force in the NFL. He’s 6’4″ and runs a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash, meaning trouble for opposing defenses.  Now the question is…who drafts him?  In my opinion, the Cleveland Browns could use Allen the most.  With the obvious need for an upgrade in the offense, Dwayne Allen might just be the security blanket that RGIII (or any other young QB) needs to grow to his full potential, and at the 22nd pick in the draft the timing seems just about right.