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.

Report: Astros, Michael Brantley agree to two-year, $32 million contract

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros and outfielder Michael Brantley are closing in on an agreement for a two-year contract in the $32 million range.

Brantley, 31, played a mostly full season last year for the first time since 2015. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 631 plate appearances. He made the AL All-Star squad for the third time in his career.

Brantley’s health, though, is why he had to settle for a two-year deal as opposed to a longer contract for a player of his caliber. He will take over in left field. In the event Brantley succumbs to injury woes, the Astros have top prospect Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings.

Update: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who also reports that the deal is in place, the Astros plan to rotate Brantley between left field, first base, and DH. That opens up some more playing time for Tucker.