HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – With the 2013 MLB draft less than 24 hours away, the Astros will be looking to fill a multitude of needs with their number one draft pick.  The First-Year Player Draft begins Thursday, June 6 with rounds 1 and 2. The consensus among baseball critics is that the top two-rated prospects are pitchers Mark Appel, and Jonathan Gray, who are 1 and 1A.  Assuming the Astros will go with conventional wisdom, Gray and Appel have major-league appeal for an Astros team that continues to beef up its pitching prospects.

Jonathan Gray, 21, RHP
The University of Oklahoma pitcher is a right-handed power pitcher.  The 21-year old can throw a triple-digit fastball but normally this season sits in the upper 90’s and is able to keep the velocity deep into games. To go with his power fastball he also can throw a slider, change-up and curveball. This season with the Sooners, Gray is 10-2 with 1.59 ERA with 4 complete games, in a 119 innings he has struck out an impressive 138 batters while only walking 22. This won’t be the first time seeing his name being called, he was picked by the Kansas City Royals in the 13th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, and in the 10th round in 2011 by the New York Yankees of course this year he will be selected much higher.

Mark Appel, 21, RHP
The 21-year old decided to return to Stanford after being offered $4 million by Pittsburgh who drafted him 8th overall last year.  Now with a college degree, Appel will be up for a first-round pick once again.

The right handed pitcher, might not have the power fastball that Gray has, but he is consistently in the mid 90’s.  Apple also brings a MLB-ready slider and change-up and is billed as the most ready pitcher in the MLB draft.  This season he went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA with 4 complete games. In 106.1 innings he had 130 strikeouts to go with 23 walks.  Like Gray, Appel has been picked by two teams previously.  In addition to being selected by the Pirates in 2012, he was selected in the 15th round by the Detroit Tigers in 2009.

Appel was born in Houston and lived here till he was 12.  Would an Astros uniform be a perfect fit?  The Astros did pass on Appel last year, choosing to take advantage of MLB’s new draft policy which allowed them to slot players at a lower value and use the savings in later rounds.  Whether GM Jeff Luhnow decides to snag the top prospect this year remains to be seen.

The Astros may be taking a long, hard look at these players unless they throw a figurative curveball and decide to forgo flash for value with a position player such as third baseman Colin Moran.  After all, the Astros did something very similar in 2012 when they drafted a less expensive player and increased their value in subsequent rounds with their number-one pick Carlos Correa.

The 2013 First-Year Player Draft will take place Thursday through Saturday, featuring 40 rounds of selections.

Thursday, June 6: Rounds 1 and 2 beginning at 6 p.m. CT

Friday, June 7: Rounds 3-10 beginning at 12 p.m. CT

Saturday, June 8: Rounds 11-40 beginning at 12 p.m. CT


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