Mark Appel is scheduled to make his professional debut Friday with a start for low Single-A Tri-City less than a month after the Astros drafted him No. 1 overall.
Appel, who agreed to a $6.35 million signing bonus that was nearly $1.5 million below the recommended slot amount for the No. 1 pick, has been working out at the Astros’ spring training complex for the past couple weeks.
When asked about Appel’s timetable, general manager Jeff Luhnow told Chris Abshire of MLB.com: “We’re not going to set any schedule on him, but we will assess him after every game. We don’t want to create too many set expectations for Mark.”
In other words, he’s a 21-year-old college senior and if he dominates low-minors hitters like he should the Astros could move Appel pretty quickly through the farm system. He’ll be on a pitch and innings count, but Luhnow and the Astros have declined to reveal any specifics.
The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.
Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.
Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.