More than most sports, baseball is about “earning your spot.” Players have to work their way through four or five levels of the minors before getting their chance in the big leagues, and some guys wait close to 10 years before they get their shot.
So it’s at least understandable when players get upset over a specific player getting the benefit of the doubt, or getting a promotion when performance would say someone else deserves it.
That’s what’s happening in Houston right now. Last year’s top overall pick, Mark Appel, has struggled terribly at High-A Lancaster this year. In 44.1 innings, he’s allowed 48 earned runs and surrendered nine home runs. After 12 starts, his ERA sat at 9.74.
He was promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi this weekend.
Lancaster is in a hitter-friendly league and Appel’s peripheral numbers would seem to suggest he’s had a bit of bad luck, but when they say the toughest jump for a prospect to make is from Single-A to Double-A and a guy’s Double-A numbers look like that, it’s hard not to be a little worried.
The promotion, along with Appel being brought in to Minute Maid Park on Sunday to throw a bullpen session in front of Houston coaches and execs, seems to have upset some of the big league players.
From the Houston Chronicle:
“Unbelievable,” one Astro said. “I’m not in a good mood.”
A few minutes later, another Astro approached a reporter to offer his thoughts while the media waited to speak with farm director Quinton McCracken and manager Bo Porter in the home dugout.
“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 Astros player said on the condition of anonymity.
Bonus babies and top prospects being brought in to throw or take batting practice isn’t exactly unusual — teams do it all the time after players sign. That’s what makes the extent of the anger — even considering the “he didn’t earn it” mindset — a little surprising.
Sure, Appel is being moved up to Double-A without the numbers to support it. But he’s also the top overall pick in the draft, and the Astros have consistently shown they value process over results. If Appel’s process (his mechanics) are fine, then the Astros are going to move him up and see if a change of scenery is all he needed. That also might explain his appearance on the sacred grounds of a big league ballpark — the front office may want to see if the big league staff can pick anything up that minor league coaches and their own scouts may have been missing.
Houston’s big league players are frustrated. In the running for a fourth straight #1 overall pick, they’ve been frustrated for awhile. The front office has been very unconventional in the way they’ve tried to rebuild the entire organization, and with few fruits to show for it, the players are going to question decisions — even minor ones like this — more and more.