No common ground to be found for Pirates and Mark Appel

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The Pirates knew they were taking a risk when they made Stanford right-hander Mark Appel the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft. Expected to go first overall, Appel reportedly turned down a $6 million bonus from the Astros before the draft, causing Houston to choose Carlos Correa instead.

The fall to No. 8 guaranteed that Appel would no longer be a candidate for a $6 million bonus. MLB’s proposed slot price for No. 8 is $2.9 million, compared to $7.2 million for No. 1 overall. Now that Appel is the Pirates’ only top-10 pick unsigned, the team knows exactly what it can offer him without losing a 2013 first-rounder: $3.84 million. That reportedly isn’t good enough for Appel.

Appel would seem to have a lot more to lose than to gain by going back to school for his senior season. If he duplicates his 2012 performance, he could be a top-three pick next year and get more than $3.8 million. However, there’s a significant risk of injury and it’s also possible he just won’t perform quite as well. Plus, as a college senior, he’ll have less leverage in negotiations next year no matter where he’s drafted.

Still, it looks like that’s where we’re headed. It’s not like the Pirates can simply up their proposal against Friday’s deadline; they’re offering him every dollar they can without losing a first-round pick. And while one could argue it might be worth losing the pick to land someone with Appel’s talent — particularly given that the Pirates probably won’t be drafting it the top 10 again next year — it’s clear they’re not willing to budge on that possibility.

Braves’ prospect Ronald Acuna wins AFL MVP, helps clinch AFL Championship Game

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The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.

At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.

Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.

From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.

Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.