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stanford mark appelAlthough it is still too early to prognosticate – beyond the caveat-filled, educated guess stuff – about the Chicago Cubs’ 2013 Draft and their number two overall pick. While amateur seasons are finally underway, a great deal can still change between now and the June Draft. Indeed, if you follow draft prospect info on Twitter, we’re seeing the see-saw already – one day, it’s quite obvious that college lefty Sean Manaea is the best pitcher available in the draft. Then, someone like Jonathan Gray from Oklahoma comes out of nowhere (at least in terms of the top of the Draft) and is flashing ridiculous stuff, and enters the national conversation. And then an already-hyped high school positional prospect like Clint Frazier goes off at a heavily-scouted game, and he’s the obvious guy at the top.

This dance will continue for the next couple months. It’s fun to follow, so long as you keep in mind that things can and will change on a regular basis.

When it comes to the Cubs’ pick, all we know is this: if there’s an obvious, sure-thing, dominant college starting pitcher available, the Cubs will take him. Otherwise, they’ll take the best available positional player. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has said as much, with openness and vigor, and has strongly suggested a general preference for positional players in the first round of a draft.

Right now, there are some quality college arms who will go near the top of the Draft, but we don’t yet know if any of them will become the guy who is so obviously going to be successful that the Cubs can’t pass him up.

But is Stanford’s Mark Appel going to become that guy?

You know Appel’s story: as a dominant junior last year, he was believed by most to be the best college arm in the Draft, but he slipped to 8th due to signability concerns (that slipping includes the Cubs passing up on him at 6, though they were pretty in love with Albert Almora). Those signability concerns were justified, as Appel ultimately refused to sign with the Pirates for a shade under $4 million. Now in his senior season, Appel will have less leverage in the 2013 Draft, and may have to destroy college hitters all year to keep himself in the conversation at the top (a great pitcher like Appel is expected to put up very good numbers as a senior, for obvious reasons – he needs better than very good numbers).

So far, the numbers have been there. Through 30 innings, Appel has a 1.20 ERA, has struck out 43, and has walked just six. Heck, he’s given up just 17 hits.

If the Astros don’t take Appel, will the Cubs decide he’s their guy? No one can yet say for sure, but Phil Rogers suggests it could happen.

ESPN’s Jim Bowden goes a step further, saying, “one Cubs evaluator told me if Stanford right-hander Mark Appel is sitting there at No. 2 in this year’s draft, he won’t get by them.” Say what you will about Bowden or Rogers, but that’s a pretty authoritative take right there, coming straight from a Cubs source.

So, I guess at the end of this, we can conclude only that (1) it’s early, (2) Appel’s been pretty great so far, and (3) the Cubs might be interested in Appel in the two-spot (and one source says they’re taking him if he’s there).

Not earth-shattering, but useful info as we descend into the madness of draft season.

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