Upon winning an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1973, Jack Lemmon said, when receiving his Oscar: "I had a speech prepared -- in 1959".
Mark Appel didn't have to wait 14 years, though it might have felt that way at times to the Stanford righty, but he can now dust off any remarks he might have prepared last year, when he was widely considered the top prospect heading into the 2012 draft. The Astros bypassed Appel 12 months ago because of reported signability concerns, and he fell to Pirates, who took him with the No. 8 pick. Appel chose not to sign with Pittsburgh and returned to school, where another stellar season helped result in his finally being drafted first overall by his hometown Astros on Thursday night.
Houston had three can't-lose options with the first slot: Appel, slugging San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant and flamethrowing Oklahoma righthander Jonathan Gray. Both Appel and Gray are Scott Boras clients, and no matter which pitcher the Astros chose, negotiations figured to be contentious, expensive and lengthy right up until the signing deadline at 5 p.m. EDT on July 12.
Fully aware of that situation, the Astros decided to go wtih Appel. General manager Jeff Luhnow realizes Appel is a polished, near big league ready starting pitcher with a future as the ace of the Astros staff. He projects as a workhorse and has three plus-pitches (fastball, curve and changeup).
Here some other accolades and observations from the opening round of the 2013 MLB draft:
Biggest winner, team: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Bucs had two early picks at No. 9 and No. 14 and didn't waste either of them. Austin Meadows (9) was the second best outfielder available in this draft -- behind fellow Georgia high schooler Clint Frazier -- and Reese McGuire (14) was the best catcher on the board. Pittsburgh got both.
Biggest loser, team: Kansas City Royals
Other teams probably see the Royals' selection of Stephen F. Austin shortstop Hunter Dozier at No. 8 as a "what the heck are they thinking?" pick. No doubt Kansas City sees it as a Mike Trout type pick, believing it has identified premium talent that other teams missed.
Biggest winner, player: Mark Appel, No. 1, Houston
Appel turned down $3.8 million from the Pirates last year. The slot for this year's first pick is almost $7.8 million. That $4 million profit margin easily makes Appel the biggest winner in this year's draft.
Biggest loser, player: Jonathan Gray, No. 3, Colorado
Gray reportedly failed a test for Adderall, which is banned by MLB if a player does not have a therapeutic use exemption, which he reportedly did not. That may have dropped Gray from the number one spot down to number three. Being the third overall selection is no dishonor -- Evan Longoria was a No. 3 pick who turned out just fine -- yet the potential financial gulf between the two spots is enormous and, fairly or not, it casts a shadow over Gray just as he's beginning his professional career.
Biggest surprise: Hunter Dozier, No. 8, Kansas City
While there were other unexpected picks later in the first round (especially high school shortstop Christian Arroyo, whom the Giants took at No. 25), Dozier was the only true and complete surprise in the early portion of the first round. There is going to be speculation that the Royals drafted him because he figures to be more signable, but it's more likely that Dozier simply dazzled the Royals in a pre-draft workout, causing GM Dayton Moore and company to re-evaluate him.
Best player to not be drafted in Round 1: Michael Lorenzen
By far the best player still on the board after the conclusion of the first round was Lorenzen, a multi-tooled outfielder form Cal State Fullerton with speed and an outstanding arm. A questionable bat may have dropped Lorenzen to the competitive balance Round A, where the Reds grabbed him with the 38th pick.
There were other first-round talents who also slipped out of the opening round. Both pitcher Sean Manaea and outfielder Austin Wilson were early-season candidates to be top-10 picks but dropped out of the first round entirely because of injuries (Manaea) and inconsistent performances (both). Manaea, an Indiana State lefty who, like Stanford's Wilson, can elect to return to college next year, wound up going to the Royals with the first pick in the competitive balance Round A between the first and second rounds. Wilson fell to the Mariners with the 49th pick.
Oklahoma high school catcher Jon Denney was a mid-first-round possibility, but he didn't get picked at all on Thursday and may be the best player available when the draft resumes with the third round on Friday.
Early front runner for to go first in 2014: Jacob Gatewood
Gatewood is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior shortstop from Clovis (Calif.) High School near Fresno. Had he been in this draft, Gatewood would be the best shortstop, high school or college, available. He runs well, has a great throwing arm and the ball flies off his bat. He has true superstar potential and reminds people of Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki, who he patterns his game after, even wearing No. 2 in Tulo's honor.