Should the Chicago White Sox take a chance on Mark Appel?

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The annual MLB Winter Meetings kick off on Sunday night in Orlando. While all the attention will be on trades and free-agent signings, the Chicago White Sox could make a splash in the Rule-5 draft.

There hasn’t been too much winning on the Southside in the past few seasons. But there’s one week that the Chicago White Sox are used to winning.

The 117th-annual Major League Baseball Winter Meetings begin on Sunday night, and the White Sox will once again look to make some noise.

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Sox fans should remember last seasons Winter Meetings pretty well. All-Star lefty Chris Sale was traded for stud prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech on day three, while fan-favorite outfielder Adam Eaton was dealt to D.C. in exchange for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning on day four- one of the most memorable trade heists in White Sox history.

To expect Rick Hahn and the Sox to make the same type of moves as last year would be a bit unrealistic. Yes, there is a chance that slugger Jose Abreu and/or 2017 All-Star Avisail Garcia are moved, but the White Sox are at the point in the rebuilding process where there’s less emphasis on trading core pieces.

The White Sox are likely going to be working on next seasons roster- not as much the future. Look for the Sox to add a relief arm or two, and maybe a power bat or outfield depth.

The most overlooked event of the week will take place on Thursday morning- the Rule 5 Draft.

The Rule 5 Draft is run much like June’s First-Year Player Draft. The order is set with the previous seasons worst team (record wise) selecting first, followed by the team with the second-worst record and so-on.

Teams may only make a selection if they have room on their 40-man roster. Teams also may object to not make a pick. The Rule 5 Draft’s purpose is to prevent teams from stockpiling young players for too long in the minor leagues whereas those players could be playing in the major leagues elsewhere.

Eligible players are those who were signed at the age of 18 and have spent five years in professional baseball and players who were signed at the age of 19 and have spent four years in pro baseball.

Here’s the catch: drafted players must spend the entire season on the drafted team’s major league roster. If removed from the roster, the drafting team must offer the player back to his original team for $50,000.

The White Sox hold the fourth pick in this years draft, and will likely make a selection. Among the hundreds of eligible players, one name provides serious intrigue for the White Sox: Mark Appel.

You might remember the former Stanford product as the top pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Appel, now 26 years old, has struggled mightily since being traded from the Astros to the Phillies in 2015.

Shoulder injuries have played a significant role in Appel’s struggles. The righty owned a 5.14 ERA in 17 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season.

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The Phillies designated Appel for assignment earlier this offseason, making him eligible to be selected on Thursday.

Picking at four, Appel almost certainly will be available for the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox are in severe need of a few bullpen arms and could see potential in Appel.

The White Sox would likely start Appel in a mop-up role. For a guy whose pro career has been mostly a disaster, easing Appel into the major leagues would be of benefit for both sides.

If Appel finds success in low-leverage situations, Don Cooper could start to slowly move Appel into a late-inning role. Appel’s fastball was what got him drafted first overall and could become his out pitch in the big leagues.

Appel could even make a few spot starts if the Chicago White Sox don’t think he’s ready for the later innings. Appel would fit in perfectly with a young team and young pitching staff.

If the Appel experiment fails, then so be it. It can’t hurt to take a chance on a guy who was once compared to Mark Prior.