Appel still flirting with No. 1 status

Updated: April 30, 2012, 10:17 AM ET
By Jason A. Churchill

Stanford right-hander Mark Appel began the season as perhaps the top candidate to go No. 1 overall. Since very early in the schedule, Appling County (Ga.) High School outfielder Byron Buxton, who has been the top prospect in Keith Law's Top 50 Draft Prospects from the get-go, has moved to the front of that line.

Buxton and his teammates finished their regular season Saturday and will start a playoff run next weekend. He entered that final game batting .566 with a .663 on-base percentage, 14 doubles and 28 stolen bases, not to mention a perfect 6-0 record and two strikeouts per inning from the mound.

Appel, however, continues to tease scouts with big velocity and signs of improved command and offspeed stuff. The 6-foot-5, 215- pounder went seven strong innings Friday night at UCLA, allowing eight hits and an earned run. He did not walk a batter and struck out 10. For the year, Appel is 6-1 with a 2.73 ERA and 81-20 K/BB ratio in 79 innings of work.

"He's the [Gerrit] Cole of this draft," said one scouting supervisor. "You have to look down the road a little bit more than you'd like," on a college pitcher, "but the raw ability is there and he's learning to pitch this year." There are times when Appel looks the part of a No. 1 pick and others when he appears to be quite the risk in the top half of the top 10.