In 2014, Appel, the first-overall pick of the 2013 draft, was lit up to the tune of a 9.74 ERA out in A-Advanced Lancaster. It took him 12 games there to make adjustments and right the ship, and he was quickly promoted to AA Corpus Christi once those adjustments were made.
He pitched quite well upon his promotion, posting a 2.99 FIP and a career-best strike out rate in seven games for the Hooks. He followed that up with a 2.61 ERA performance in the tough Arizona Fall League, so things appeared to be good to go with him heading into 2015.
But it wasn't to be, as he again struggled. The Astros were reportedly working with him to develop a slide step, and things weren't working well; through nine games, he owned an ugly 5.85 ERA. But during his last four outings, things picked up considerably, as he allowed just two earned runs in 23.1 innings of work. Speculation began shortly after that he would be promoted soon, and today it was made so.
Mark Appel has been promoted to Class AAA Fresno.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) June 24, 2015
And late last night, news about another top Astros prospect moving on up broke as well.
Lancaster manager Omar Lopez told OF Brett Phillips after All-Star game he's going to Corpus Christi.— Brian McTaggart ⚾️ (@brianmctaggart) June 24, 2015
Phillips, the sixth-round pick of the so-far-incredible-looking 2012 Astros draft class, started his career slowly in 2013 but exploded onto the scene with the Quad-Cities River Bandits in 2014, posting a 148 wRC+ before spending the last month of the season with Lancaster, where he did even better.
He batted .320/.379/.588 with 15 home runs for the JetHawks this year and was selected to the California League All-Star team. He'll join a crowded AA outfield group, but surely won't lack in playing time.