mark appel getty

Astros prospect Mark Appel dealing with tendinitis in his thumb

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With this year’s First-Year Player Draft underway, it only makes sense to check in on the progress of last year’s No. 1 pick, Mark Appel.

In case you haven’t noticed, Appel has had a rough go of things this season. The 22-year-old struggled to adapt to the Astros’ piggyback starter system with High-A Lancaster, giving up 10 runs on 17 hits and four walks over 13 innings before being sent to extended spring training. He made his return to Lancaster on Saturday and was rocked for 10 runs on 10 hits (including three home runs) over just 1 1/3 innings. It appears that we have an explanation for at least part of the struggles.

According to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said that Appel was scratched from his start with Lancaster today due to tendinitis in his right thumb. The good news is that it’s not a major concern. He’s expected to resume throwing tomorrow and make his next start one week from today.

When the Astros drafted Appel No. 1 overall last June, many said that he could make his major league debut by the end of 2014. That looks doubtful right now, though it’s obviously way too soon to write him off for the long term. If anything, it functions as a reminder that nobody is a sure thing.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.

Report: Phillies agree to minor league deal with Daniel Nava

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 12:  Daniel Nava #12 of the Kansas City Royals bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.

Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.