Honor Roll No. 1: Mark Appel

He is The Bootleg's first 2012-'13 Honor Roll awardee, baseball's No. 1 pitcher and the MLB Draft's No. 1 overall pick. Perhaps his only second-place appearance has been here, where he is a repeat awardee on our Honor Roll after appearing on this very list last year. Without further ado, we congratulate Mark Appel.

In an April 25 article, we released the 30 finalists for The Bootleg Honor Roll award for the 2012-‘13 school year.

The criteria are as follows:

Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student-athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational. While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents. Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well.

We are now releasing the 10 winners of this award, one by one. Our first announced member of The Bootleg's 2012-2013 Honor Roll is baseball's Mark Appel.

Texas has been beyond good to Stanford recently. Local products Andrew Luck and Nneka Ogwumike were the top picks of their respective drafts a year ago. At that time, it looked like Mark Appel might bring a weird symmetry to the story, as The Bootleg discussed in a 2012 interview with him. Born in Houston, Appel was on the verge of becoming the No. 1 pick of the MLB Draft, and ending up in his (and Luck and Ogwumike's) hometown to play for the Houston Astros.

For a myriad of complicated reasons, that didn't happen in 2012, as Appel fell to no. 8 in that year's draft. He elected to forego $3.8 million and return to Stanford, much like one Andrew Luck had a few years prior. And just like Luck, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick after his academic junior year who only became a better player yet as a senior, so too did Appel take his game to the next level.

He finished with a 10-4 record and 2.12 ERA, and it's a safe bet his stats will look better the more closely one looks. For one, his ERA was significantly lower than the 2.56 ERA he posted his junior year, suggesting he is on an upward trajectory that could continue into his MLB days. Second, his peripheral stats were better yet, with over six strikeouts for every walk, only two home runs allowed through over 106 innings pitched, not a single stolen base allowed(!), and four complete games in his fourteen starts, two of them shutouts. Opponents hit only .203 against Appel. Twelve of his 37 runs allowed were unearned, suggesting that, if anything, he was unlucky to post that 10-4 overall mark. Simply put, Appel was brilliant.

Admittedly, at a school with 448 individual national champions and counting, Stanford fans have always been spoiled by brilliance, and the latest crop of top-line stars have come in the most popular sports: quarterback of the football team, All-Everything on the women's basketball team, and ace pitcher of the baseball team. Like his fellow Houstonians Luck and Nneka Ogwumike, Appel has performed at another level throughout much of his college career, especially its latter stages, and it has been a joy for fans to watch.

Appel was both an Honor Roll finalist and awardee last year, and The Bootleg wishes him the best in the years to come. Oh, and did we mention that the Astros again had the no. 1 pick in the 2013 MLB Draft? Appel's decision to stay at Stanford for his senior year paid off: He's heading home anyway.

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