Well that didn’t take too long. The Houston Astros officially confirm the signing first overall draft pick Mark Appel. The Astros did not publicize the terms of the but Jim Callis of Baseball America believes the terms are in place and — dundundunnnnnn — below slot.

Getting Appel below slot is quite a coup for the Astros, as it should free up nearly $1.5 million to sign other players taken in later rounds. It is also makes Appel’s decision not to sign with Pirates last season a good one, as the slot for the 9th overall pick was in the neighborhood of $3.8 million.

Appel was considered one of the top talents in last year’s draft but slipped to the Pirates after concerns over his signability. He did prove to be a tough sign but did no harm to his draft stock during his final season at Stanford University.

In the press release announcing the signing, Astros general manager Jeffrey Luhnow uttered bland platitudes about inking the top pick:

“Drafting and signing Mark Appel was a top priority for our organization this year…We are an organization focused on winning championships in the future and we expect Mark to be a big part of that effort.”

More tellingly, Luhnow told Brian Kenny of NBC Sports radio last week that the Astros basically outsourced one year of Appel’s development to Stanford. The Astros might have taken a chance on signing Appel last season but instead opted to choose shortstop Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico.

One year later and still with the first overall pick, the Astros pounced on the local product who also happened to be the best prospect in the draft. After another year of pitching against the top collegiate competition, Appel might move through the minor leagues even more quickly, giving the Astros a top-of-the-rotation arm as soon as next season.

The Astros need all the help they can get, especially on the mound. In Appel they have a player they believe in and a player they can put out front in their attempts to woo back the good people of Houston – with some nice pocket change left over to try and really build a winner in Houston. Rough as the last three years have been (not to mention this season), things are finally looking up for the Houston Astros.