Now, admittedly August of 2012 is ridiculously early to be thinking about the June of 2013 draft, but Baseball America just released their top-50 rankings and Stanford right-hander Mark Appel holds the top spot after declining to sign with the Pirates as the No. 8 pick this year.
Pittsburgh will get the No. 9 pick next year as compensation for being unable to sign Appel, who turned down the $3.8 million maximum amount the Pirates could offer without losing a draft pick and will now return to college for his senior season.
If he ends up being the No. 1 pick next year Appel will likely make significantly more than $3.8 million, but then again the Astros figure to have the No. 1 pick in 2013 and they passed on him with the top pick this year. Appel (and agent Scott Boras) will also have much less leverage this time around, as returning to Stanford will no longer be an option, and of course he must avoid an injury.
Generally speaking Baseball America pegs the 2013 draft class as not particularly strong, much like the 2012 version, and in addition to Appel college pitchers hold the No. 2 (Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek) and No. 3 spots (Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea) in their rankings.
Last week, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reported that Astros starter and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander changed his mechanics in order to prolong his career. Specifically, Verlander lowered his release point from 7’2″ to 6’5″.
As Brooks Baseball shows, Verlander drastically altered his release point after being traded to the Astros from the Tigers on August 31, 2017. The change resulted in a huge bump in his strikeout rate. Verlander’s strikeout rate ranged between 16% and 27.4% with the Tigers, mostly settling in the 23-25% range. With The Tigers through the first five months of 2017, Verlander struck out 24.1% of batters. In the final month with the Astros, he struck out 35.8% of batters. He then maintained that rate over the entire 2018 and ’19 seasons with respective rates of 34.8% and 35.4%. Just as impressively, the release point also resulted in fewer walks. His walk rate ranged from 5.9% to 9.9% with the Tigers but was 4.4% and 5.0% the last two seasons with the Astros.
Verlander finished a runner-up in 2018 AL Cy Young Award balloting to Blake Snell before edging out teammate Gerrit Cole for the award last season. Despite the immense success, Verlander described his mechanics as unsustainable. Per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan, Verlander said, “I changed a lot of stuff that some people would think was unnecessary. But I thought it was necessary, especially if I want to play eight, 10 more years.”
Verlander is 37 years old, so 10 more seasons would put him into Jamie Moyer territory. Moyer, who consistently ranked among baseball’s softest-tossing pitchers, pitched 25 seasons in the majors from 1986-2012. He threw 111 2/3 innings with the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 47 and 53 2/3 innings with the Rockies in 2012 at 49. But aside from Moyer and, more recently, Bartolo Colon, it’s exceedingly rare for pitchers to extend their careers into their 40’s, let alone their mid- and late-40’s.
The Astros have Verlander under contract through 2021. The right-hander will have earned close to $300 million. He’s won a World Series, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, two Cy Youngs, and has been an eight-time All-Star. Verlander could retire after 2021 and would almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2027. That he continues to tweak his mechanics in order to pitch for another decade speaks to his highly competitive nature.