Three former Quad Cities River Bandits pitchers, including 2013 No. 1 overall draft pick Mark Appel, were among five players traded by the Houston Astros for reliever Ken Giles, who was Philadelphia’s closer after the Phillies traded Jonathan Papelbon in late July.
The Astros acquired Giles and minor-league infielder Jonathan Arauz in exchange for five pitchers: Appel, Vincent Velasquez, Thomas Eshelman, Harold Arauz and Brett Oberholtzer. Appel and Velasquez pitched for the River Bandits in 2013; Eshelman made two starts for the team this year.
Appel went 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA, 27 strikeouts and nine walks in 33 IP (eight starts) for the River Bandits. He split the 2015 season between Double-A and Triple-A, cumulatively going 10-3 with a 4.37 ERA, 110 strikeouts and 51 walks in 131.2 innings (25 starts).
Velasquez went 9-4 with a 3.19 ERA, three saves, 123 strikeouts and 33 walks in 110 IP (25 games/16 starts) for the River Bandits. He started the 2015 season in Double-A before making his major-league debut on June 10. He made 19 MLB appearances, including seven starts, going 1-1 with a 4.37 ERA, 58 strikeouts and 21 walks in 55.2 innings.
Eshelman was picked by the Astros in the second round of this year’s draft, and made only four starts during the 2015 season. Two were for the River Bandits — he gave up three earned runs, nine hits and three walks in 6.1 innings. He struck out five batters.