First Pitch: Passing on Mark Appel Was a Great Decision For the Pirates

The Major League Baseball draft doesn’t allow you to go over your total bonus pool without some extreme penalties. These include the loss of future draft picks, as well as a 100 percent tax on the overage. If there was any team wondering if an individual player was worth those penalties, all they need to do is look at what happened with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Mark Appel.

Appel was the top prospect in the 2012 draft, but fell to the Pirates at number eight overall due to signability concerns. The Pirates took the chance on him, but ended up passing on signing him, since he was demanding a bonus that would have taken them over their bonus pool. If the Pirates would have signed Appel for his demands, they would have lost their first and second round picks in 2013, plus their first and second round picks in 2014, as well as a tax of about $2-3 M extra, depending on how much they would have had to go over the bonus pool.

Instead, they passed and got a compensation pick the next year, while keeping all of their future picks. That compensation pick was used on Austin Meadows, who had an impressive season in 2013. The first and second round picks were used on Reese McGuire and Blake Taylor.

Jonathan Mayo recently released a combined version of the top 100 prospect lists. Appel ranked 21st overall. Meadows was 51st. McGuire was 85th. Some of the individual lists had Appel and Meadows closer together. But even the combined version shows that signing Appel to an over-slot deal would have been a horrible move.

If we look at the trade values for prospects, we get the following values for each player.

Appel – $18.89 M

Meadows – $10.43 M

McGuire – $10.43 M

The Appel decision was pretty much like a trade. The Pirates could have signed Appel, or they could have had five future draft picks. Meadows and McGuire alone have more value than Appel. That doesn’t even consider Blake Taylor, who would be worth $2.1 to $7.3 M, depending on whether he’s considered a Grade B or C prospect. It doesn’t include the first and second round picks in 2014, which will only add more value to the Pirates side. Then there’s the $2-3 M extra in money that the Pirates would have had to pay as a tax to sign Appel. Also, if you bump Meadows up one spot in the rankings and make him a top 50 prospect (he was a top 50 guy on a lot of lists), then you add another $8 M in value.

Appel’s trade value right now is $18.89 M. The Pirates would have had to give up at least $23 M in value from their 2013 picks, along with $2-3 M in taxes, and probably $10 M in value from the 2014 draft when considering how strong the talent is compared to the 2013 group. They would have almost had to pay double what Appel was worth, when you put it in terms of the loss of future prospects.

The decision to draft Appel to begin with really worked out for the Pirates. They had a pre-draft deal with David Dahl, who was a top 100 prospect on Mayo’s list, but came in at number 65. That’s 14 spots lower than Meadows, and the Pirates don’t get Meadows if Appel doesn’t drop to them and force them to pass on Dahl. So it was a smart move to pass on Appel, but it was good fortune that Appel was available and forced them to make such a decision.

Links and Notes

**If you haven’t ordered your copy of the 2014 Prospect Guide, you had better act fast. We’re currently on the last case of books. I say that’s the last case because I don’t think I’ll be ordering more this year. Each year I order the books in bulk through the publisher, which allows me to save several dollars per book, and I pass that savings on to you to keep the price of the book low. You’ll still be able to buy the book from the publisher after I sell my supply, but the bulk discount price won’t be included, which means you’ll be paying $25, plus $3.99 for shipping. Right now you can buy the book for $25 shipped on the products page of the site.

**Pirates Top Ten Prospect Harold Ramirez Taking BP (Video)

**Pirates Scouting First Baseman Mike Carp

**Austin Meadows: A Luxury For an Organization Loaded With Quality Outfielders

**Draft Prospect Watch: Jake Stinnett Throws No-Hitter

**The Pre-Injury Wandy Rodriguez Would Be a Huge Boost to the Rotation

**Chase d’Arnaud Outrighted to Indianapolis

**You Shouldn’t Be Surprised by the Jameson Taillon/Gerrit Cole Comparisons

**Injury Notes: Gaby Sanchez, Phil Irwin, Travis Ishikawa

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Let me play devil’s advocate here. And I am in no way saying they should have given into Appel’s demands but let’s say they did. We would now be looking at the best young rotation in the Majors and I doubt the Volquez deal gets done so $5M saved there that could have brought in a 1B. With the pitching depth we would definitely be built for winning now but with a huge hole in the system. Instead of a top 3 system we’re probably outside of the top 10.


What happened to this nonsense that was going around last week that 1st round draft picks were worth $23 million in value? If that is the case McGuire and Meadows values have plummeted!

The Bucs deserve credit for having the foresight that the 2013 draft was going be deeper than what they had to pick from in 2012.


Tim, update time for prospect values? The values are still based off the methodology that uses $5M/WAR. It might be over $6M/WAR now.


See Dave Cameron’s two posts today, seems like $6 million is middle ground now.


NH loves his draft picks and short of giving up one for Gabby has been pretty protective of his picks , along with doing much better with the Latin ball players coming in seems to be his business plan .


Not to be a negative Nancy here, but Bucs could’ve also taken Wacha or Addison Russell with that pick instead of Appel.


You can can make the ” couldof-wouldof-shouldof ” argument regarding individual players about every MLB organization if you like. See Mike Trout,Albert Pujols. Why did Wacha drop down as far as he did ?


Of course there are always “coulda/shoulda/wouldas”. I’m simply pointing out there were more than the two possible outcomes stated in the article. Russell is currently rated higher than Appel. And the Cards saw something in Wacha the Bucs didn’t. So for all the good things Bucs’ scouts have done, we do need to remind ourselves that they’re not perfect – though it often appears some here wish to believe that.

FWIW, Trout went low because few teams really scout New Jersey high schools, or those in most cold weather/short season states, unless they’re tipped onto a particular kid. Trout was either going to the Angels or Yankees, the only teams that had any serious scouting investment in him.

Erik Johnson

I think it’s more likely they would have selected David Dahl had Appel not been there.


Add to this Appel has an awfully high ERA for A ball, 3.82.
Then there is Tanner Scheppers whom the Pirates drafted second but didn’t sign. He seems to have washed out as a starter.
The best moves are the ones you don’t make sometimes.


I agree, and that was never more true than over this past off-season. Instead of making a move, they stayed the course. Remember, Scheppers and Justin Wilson were teammates at Fresno St. Scheppers had a late season injury and Wilson put the team on his back and pitched them to the College World Series Championship. He is another of those “sleepers” that is doing well in the BP, but could end up in the Rotation – he is that good.

The Masked robshelb


Good point about Justin Wilson (if he is the sleeper to whom you refer). But everybody knows that Justin should be starting, even if he probably won’t be. What I can’t figure out is why Stolmy Pimentel gets no respect around here. Mr. Williams in the Spring Training Tracker, for example, still has Stolmy listed in the category of It’s-Not-Outside-the-Realm-of-Possibility-That-He-*might*-Make-the-Team.

What ?????

(Then again, I have Stolmy pencilled in as our # 4 starter, so I could be a little biased in this regard.)

And speaking of the Spring Training Tracker, only yesterday I happened to bump into Chris Dickerson’s mom down at the supermarket, and wow, she sure gave me an earful. Yikes !! On and on and on and on. Tim Williams this and Tim Williams that. “What’s wrong with that man?” she says to me as we are standing there checking out radishes for freshness. “He’s either taken leave of his senses or he’s run out of green magic marker.”

But then again, it *was* Chris Dickerson’s mom, so I suppose she could be a little bit biased as well.



Weird, I’ve always gotten the impression that Tim was an optimistic supporter of Pimentel’s. I doubt there are many analysts out there who have a higher opinion of Pimentel and his upside than Tim and the rest on this website.


Doesn’t Dickerson’s Mom think Greg Polanco is an important enough prospect ? Or doesn’t she know that Tim doesn’t have a say in finalizing the roster ?


Absolutely! Nice article Tim! The Pirates are making the right decisions and we are seeing the results. Great thing is, it’s only going to get better.

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