Astros sign No. 1 pick Mark Appel

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Making official what was reported earlier this week, the Astros announced that they’ve come to an agreement with No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel.

Appel, who turned down $3.8 million from the Pirates last year as the No. 8 pick, is expected to receive around $6.35 million. That means returning for his senior season at Stanford turned out very well for Appel, but it also means the Astros would save around $1.45 million compared to the recommended slot bonus for the No. 1 pick, which they can then use to sign other picks.

As a senior Appel went 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 130/23 K/BB ratio in 106 innings, holding opponents to a .203 batting average and just two homers in 395 at-bats. Appel is from Houston and Astros owner Jim Crane talked about the right-hander returning home, adding that “hopefully it won’t be too long until he’s ready for the big leagues.”

Last year the Astros passed on Appel with the No. 1 pick to take high school shortstop Carlos Correa, who’s currently hitting .304 with an .830 OPS in 55 games at low Single-A as an 18-year-old.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.