Astros top pitching prospect Mark Appel lit up in return to rotation at High-A Lancaster

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Mark Appel, the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, was demoted from the starting rotation at High-A Lancaster on April 25 and sent back to extended spring training after posting ugly numbers over his first four appearances. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow offered optimism at the time, telling the Houston media that the young right-hander was simply struggling to adjust to the unique piggyback-start system being used at Lancaster.

But that is clearly not the only thing wrong here.

Appel returned to Lancaster’s rotation on Saturday night and got shelled for 10 runs on 10 hits — including three homers — over just 1 1/3 innings in a loss to the Dodgers’ High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He now owns an 11.93 ERA in 14 1/3 frames this season.

The 22-year-old recieved a $6.35 million signing bonus from Houston after being drafted out of Stanford University in June 2013. The belief was that he could be major league-ready by late 2014.

That’s obviously not going to be the case.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves