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ESPN's Keith Law and the network's game broadcasters were all but declaring Mark Appel as the Cubs' pick in the
upcoming draft last night, assuming the Astros go another direction with the first pick. The people I talk to say it's not that simple. Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray and University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant are very much in the equation at this point, and it's not out of the question that Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea could pitch himself back into the picture with a strong finish to the season, beginning with his start today. Appel gets mixed reviews for his win at Arizona State last night. He struck out 12, including six in a row at one point late in the game, but the Sun Devils got to him for three runs, only two of which were earned. Appel's fastball peaked at 96 but was 91-93 late in the game, putting him a notch below Gray in terms of his velocity. Both his slider and changeup were plus pitches, and he did a good job establishing them early. His command was excellent. Stanford coach Mark Marquess let him throw 122 pitches, the second time in his last three starts he's gone 120-plus. Gray was only so-so in getting a no-decision at West Virginia, allowing three runs (two earned) in eight innings. He was more efficient with his pitches, needing only 111. Law said that Jed Hoyer and at least two others from the Cubs were in Tempe for last night's game, with Houston represented by at least four scouts. You've got to bet Scott Boras, who is Appel's adviser, was also represented. This will be a fascinating follow over the next month. After all, Appel is pitching for Stanford this season only because he turned down $3.8 million from the Pirates last year.