The Appel of their eye: Astros choose Stanford righty No. 1

After passing on right-hander Mark Appel last year, the Houston Astros chose the Stanford standout with the top selection in Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft on Thursday.

Appel, a Houston native, becomes the fourth player chosen No. 1 overall by the Astros, joining third baseman Phil Nevin (1992), left-hander Floyd Bannister (1976) and most recently shortstop Carlos Correia, who was the team's top selection last year.

It's only the third time that a team has held the top pick in back-to-back years, joining Tampa Bay (2007-08) and Washington (2009-10).

"Such a surreal moment for me and my family, going back home," Appel said in an interview on MLB Network. "A lot has changed (since last season), my mentality towards the game ... excited to see what God has in store for me."

It reportedly came down to two players for the Astros, as the team appeared to lean in the direction of Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray, given the signability issues that caused them to pass on Appel a year ago.

Apparently that was not the case, though. Or perhaps the Astros were scared off by Gray's recent positive test for the medication Adderall during baseball's predraft drug testing program.

Appel, of course, was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the eighth overall pick last year, but shortly after the selection he announced his intentions to return to Stanford and that is exactly what happened after failing to come to terms with the Bucs.

He was also a 15th round draft choice of the Detroit Tigers out of high school back in 2009.

The deadline for teams to sign draft picks this year is July 12, but that won't apply to Appel because he is a college senior.

Represented by agent Scott Boras, Appel did nothing to hurt his value this past season with the Cardinal.

Stanford's all-time strikeout leader (372), Appel ranked third in the Pac-12 with a 2.12 ERA and boasted a .203 opposing batting average. He also led the conference and ranked fourth in the nation with 130 punchouts.

Appel went 10-4 in 14 starts and tossed four complete games. He issued just 23 walks and allowed 17 extra-base hits in 106 1/3 innings while being named as a finalist for almost every major college award.

"We're absolutely thrilled that this came to a conclusion today and that we selected Mark Appel with the first selection in the draft," said Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. "We believe he is a premium talent and we see him as a future potential ace. He's exactly the type of player that we need to be adding to the organization. He makes us significantly better and we believe this is a special player that is going to be a part of our championship team someday."

The Chicago Cubs selected San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant with the second pick, Colorado chose Gray third, Minnesota took prep righty Kohl Stewart with the fourth overall pick, while Cleveland rounded out the top-5 by picking high school outfielder Clint Frazier from Georgia.

North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran went to Miami at No. 6, the Boston Red Sox then chose the first lefty, talking high schooler Trey Ball before the Kansas City Royals selected Stephen F. Austin shortstop Hunter Dozier,

The Pirates selected another prep outfielder from Georgia, Austin Meadows, at No. 9 as compensation for failing to sign Appel a year ago.

Oaks Christian High School right-hander Phillip Bickford then went to Toronto to complete the first 10 picks.

The New York Mets chose high school first baseman Dominic Smith at No. 11.

Seattle then picked perhaps the best pure hitter in college baseball in New Mexico third baseman D.J. Peterson and Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe went to San Diego at 13.

Pittsburgh chose another high schooler in catcher Reese McGuire with their second first round pick at No. 14.

At 15 Arizona picked Nevada righty Braden Shipley before Philadelphia made California prep shortstop J.P. Crawford the 16th pick.

With the 17th pick the Chicago White Sox chose shortstop Tim Anderson, then the Dodgers picked another Anderson, selecting Jacksonville University right- hander Chris Anderson. Gonzaga lefty Marco Gonzalez went to St. Louis at 19 and Detroit picked Florida right-hander Jonathon Crawford at 20.

High school players then went with the next two picks, as catcher Nick Ciuffo went to Tampa at 21 and Baltimore chose right-hander Hunter Harvey, the son of former major leaguer Bryan Harvey. Oral Roberts righty Alex Gonzalez went to Texas, high schooler Billy McKinney landed with Oakland and shortstop Christian Arroyo went to the defending world champion San Francisco Giants at No. 25.

The New York Yankees selected Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo with the first of their three first round picks at 26 and Cincinnati followed by taking Samford University outfielder Phillip Ervin.

Rob Kaminsky, a left-handed high schooler from New Jersey, went to St. Louis as a compensation pick for Kyle Lohse, before Arkansas righty Ryne Stanek landed with Tampa Bay at 29 as compensation for B.J. Upton.

Texas then used its comp pick for Josh Hamilton on high school shortstop Travis Demeritte, while Atlanta picked Oklahoma State right-hander Jason Hursh for losing Michael Bourn.

New York then ended the first round festivities by choosing 6-foot-7 Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge and prep left-hander Ian Clarkin. Judge was compensation for Nick Swisher, while the Yankees received the Clarkin pick when Rafael Soriano signed with Washington.