2013 MLB Draft: Astros take Mark Appel first overall

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Last year, the Astros decided they weren’t interested in meeting Mark Appel’s bonus demands and selected Carlos Correa first overall. Given a do over after finishing with the worst record in baseball once again, the Astros selected Appel, a right-hander from Stanford, first overall in Thursday’s draft.

Appel ended up going eighth overall to the Pirates last year and went back to Stanford for his Senior season after Pittsburgh failed to sign him. It was a risky move, but it worked out as well as could be hoped, as Appel stayed healthy and went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA and a 130/23 K/BB ratio in 106 1/3 innings.

The Astros will have leverage in dealing with Appel, given that he can’t go back to school this time. His slot value is $7.79 million, but the Astros could get him for a bit less, giving them more flexibility with later picks. It’s hard to imagine Appel could risk going back into next year’s draft, which is considered significantly stronger than this one. It’s highly unlikely that he’d go first again.

Appel throws in the mid-90s and possesses both a slider and a changeup. He’s certainly not a slamdunk No. 1 pick like Stephen Strasburg before him, but the stuff is there to make him at least a No. 3 starter and potentially something more if his slider or changeup improves. He should be ready to contribute at some point during 2014.

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Picks 2-5: Cubs follow with power-hitting third baseman Kris Bryant

Picks 6-10: Marlins take 3B Moran, Red Sox add LHP Ball

Picks 11-20: Mets draft a first baseman, Mariners look to third base

Picks 21-33: Yankees add bats, left-hander with three first-round picks

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.