The Houston Astros selected right-hander Mark Appel with the first pick of the MLB first-year player draft on Thursday night.

Appel, who last month completed his career at Stanford, was the eighth overall selection of the 2012 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates but opted to return to college baseball, turning down $3.8 million. His gamble paid off when his contract will well exceed that amount as the top selection.

The Astros also had the first overall pick in last year's draft, and many thought they'd choose Appel. Instead, they went with Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa, but they got another chance at the Houston-born Appel on Thursday. Many experts believe the Astros ultimately decided between Appel and Oklahoma RHP Jonathan Gray and Appel.

This season for Stanford, Appel finished 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA. He threw four complete games and struck out 130 batters in 106.1 innings. Opponents hit just .203 off him in his senior season.

Appel is represented by agent Scott Boras. His fastball tops out in the mid-to-upper 90s, and he also throws a slider and changeup.