CHISportsNation

February 1, 2018 by Tyler Lowe

 

It’s 2013.  The Houston Astros are on the clock with the 1st pick of the MLB First-Year Player Draft.  They’re pick is in.  It’s Kris Bryant.

Okay, not really.  We all know that the Astros selected right-handed pitcher Mark Appel with that pick.  Appel decided to walk away from baseball today at the age of 26, not once throwing a pitch in the MLB.  At the time of the draft, many evaluators throughout baseball thought Appel was a ‘can’t miss’ type of prospect, a hard throwing starter with four years of experience at Stanford University.  In his senior season, Appel was 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA in 106.1 innings.  He struck out 130 batters while only walking 23.  Perhaps even more impressive, Appel only allowed 6 home runs over roughly 333 innings from his sophomore-senior seasons.  With all that experience and success he enjoyed at Stanford, some expected he could even reach the majors by August or September of that year.  Obviously, things did not go well for him.

 

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Ted Berg / USA Today Sports

 

The Cubs would go on to select third baseman Kris Bryant with the 2nd pick that night.  His resume includes NL Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, and MLB World Series Champion.  He’s been the Cubs best player over his three seasons with the team, and recently broke the record for salary of a player in the first year of arbitration eligibility ($10.85 million).  But what if the Astros had taken Bryant with the 1st overall selection in 2013?

This is where things get pretty scary on the Cubs side.  Besides Bryant, Aaron Judge is the only other all-star in the 1st round, and he wasn’t even selected until the supplementary part of the round at #32 overall.  Realistically, the Cubs would have probably taken someone else who was drafted in the top 5.  That leaves Appel, Jon Gray, Kohl Stewart, and Clint Frazier.  Scary, huh?

Appel was a total bust and Stewart, while still only 22, has only logged 5 ugly innings at the Triple-A level.  The Cubs are left with a best-case scenario of Gray or Frazier, and that’s still not very impressive.  Gray logged some meaningful innings for the Rockies in 2017 and Frazier is still considered by some a top prospect, but they’re not Kris Bryant.  Frazier, especially, would have a hard time cracking the Cubs roster.  He wasn’t ready for MLB action until late 2017, and by then the Cubs had more established young guys like Javier Baez, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, and Albert Almora Jr. already vying for at-bats.

So let’s say the Cubs were able to pick Gray, probably the best remaining player in the top 5.  They would finally have a controllable starting pitcher that they were able to develop on their own.  However, without Bryant, the Cubs don’t have a perennial MVP candidate or proven winner.  They probably don’t overachieve in 2015 to make the playoffs, they certainly don’t win the 2016 World Series, and the Brewers would have had a much easier time holding onto their grip of 1st place in the NL Central in 2017.  Maybe most importantly, we wouldn’t get to enjoy the Bryzzo Souvenir Company.

Let’s all take a second to thank the 2013 Astros and Mark Appel.

 

Cover Photo: Gurganus / Baseball America

 

 

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