Will Cubs phenom Kris Bryant make Mark Appel the next Sam Bowie?

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Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant watches batting practice before the Cubs played the San Diego Padres in a baseball game Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in San Diego. | AP Photo/Gregory Bull

Kris Bryant was the no-brainer pick of the 2013 MLB draft — a talent too good to pass up.

“When we started ranking our board, it was like, ‘Kris Bryant’s No. 1, right?'” one MLB executive that didn’t have a top-10 pick told ESPN’s Buster Olney. “‘OK, move on to the next guy.'”

But the Houston Astros front office didn’t see it that way and selected a 21-year-old pitcher named Mark Appel. The prized right-hander was “regarded as a polished arm who can move quickly through the farm system, and Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow was thrilled to get him,” according to the MLB.com article published on draft day.

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Now, Appel wasn’t chopped liver. He was a foregone conclusion to be one of the first three picks of the draft. The Cubs, according to the article linked above, were linked to Appel and pitcher Jonathan Gray with the second overall pick, but that may have just been misdirection on Theo Epstein’s part.

Appel pitched four seasons at Stanford and finished as the school’s strikeouts leader with 372 in 377 2/3 innings. He’d been selected eighth by the Pirates a year earlier but opted not to sign.

Now 23, Appel hasn’t ascended through the ranks the way the Astros might have hoped. He signed for a $6.35 signing bonus two years ago and is now at Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas). He has allowed 18 runs in 30 innings this year with poor command and a low strikeout rate.

Bryant, on the other hand, proved he didn’t belong in the minors last season after hitting 43 homers. He was promoted to the Cubs two weeks into this season and is thriving in the majors, with the potential to be a future MVP.

The Astros’ pick of Appel is ripe for second-guessing. The pitching-heavy draft included 15 arms taken in the first round, and six college pitchers were taken in the top 20.

Bryant isn’t a Hall of Famer yet, but ESPN’s Olney is already comparing Appel to Sam Bowie, who was taken with the pick right before Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft.

Assuming that the Astros would pick Bryant, the Cubs were prepared to take a starter in Jonathan Gray or Mark Appel. Then the Cubs got lucky: The Astros tapped Appel — a pick that now appears destined to be as second-guessed as the Trail Blazers’ selection of Sam Bowie over a guard named Michael Jordan.

Bowie went on to an injury-ridden, 10-year career in the NBA, while Jordan is considered the greatest NBA player of all time. Cubs fans dream the same comes true of Bryant.

As for Appel, well, a 10-year MLB career would be nothing to sneeze at, if he can pitch his way out of the minors.

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