Just four years after being selected by the Houston Astros with the number one overall, Mark Appel will look for his third team to cling on to. As part of a flurry of roster moves, the Phillies decided to remove Appel, along with Alberto Tirado, from the 40-man roster to make room for younger prospects. The pair have been designated for assignment, and are now available to be claimed by any team in the league. If the duo were to go unclaimed, they could return to the Phillies organization without protection of the 40-man roster. Both could then, in theory, be taken in the Rule 5 Draft by any team as well.This move were made simultaneously with another that saw the Phillies add four pitchers to the 4-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. The club added right handers Franklyn Kolome, Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Taveras, as well as lefty Ranger Suarez to the fold. If you’ve read my past works, you’ll know how heavily involved I believe both Dominguez and Kolome will be in the bullpen for the Phillies in the near future.
While it is unlikely that Tirado gets claimed, Appel is a different story, as he could hold some intrigue for a number of teams looking to make him a reclamation project. When those two words are uttered together, you immediately think one team: the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’ve done a tremendous job in the past of resurrecting the careers of failing veterans such as Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and many more.
So let’s take a look back at Mark Appel’s time with the organization, despite how short it truly was.
The Phillies obtained Appel along with Vince Velasquez, Tom Eshelman, Brett Oberholtzer and Harold Arauz from the Houston Astros in December,2015 in a trade that sent flamethrowing closer Ken Giles to the Astros. Despite being drafted with the number one overall pick, Appel had yet to appear in a Major League game for the Astros. The Phillies were hoping they could bring new life to the hard throwing righty’s arm with a change of scenery.
Appel appeared in eight games for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in 2016, starting all eight of them. He finished 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA in those eight starts, throwing just 38.1 innings. Over that time, he struckout 34 batters, but also walked 20 and allowed 40 hits. Those 60 baserunners over 38.1 innings pitched led to an inflated 1.57 WHIP on the season. On May 27, the Phillies put Appel on the seven day disabled list with a strained right shoulder. Despite being put on the lowest DL stint possible, Appel wouldn’t return to action until September 12. In total, his first season with the Phillies organization left little to be desired. Appel’s hopes of being promoted to the big leagues within the Phillies’ organization were dwindling after just one season. He was being passed up on call-ups frequently with the rash of injuries and struggles the Major League staff faced.
In year two, Appel found himself again shelved by an injury, once again with shoulder strain. The DL stint didn’t last as long this time around, as he was shut down from July 13 to August 31. After two appearances with the rookie ball team on rehab assignment, Appel returned to the Iron Pigs on September 7. Throughout 2017, Appel started 17 games in Lehigh Valley, not faring any better than the year prior. Over 82 innings pitched, Appel notched a 5-4 record, amassing a 5.27 ERA along the way. He struckout just 60 over than frame while walking 53. His WHIP increased to 1.76as he allowed an additional 91 hits.
Less than two years after the blockbuster trade, the Phillies are now out two of five players they received in trading Ken Giles. The Phillies do have hope, however, in the remaining three arms. Since coming to the organization, Harold Arauz has leaped from rookie ball to AA Reading. He posted a 1.97 ERA in 29 appearances in 2017. Tom Eshelman appears to be knocking on the door of the Major Leagues and will likely see some action next season. He went 13-3 with a 2.40 ERA between Reading and Lehigh Valley last season. And of course there’s Vinny Velasquez. Slighted by many, myself including, Velasquez has been with the big league club almost exclusively since the trade. He’s struggled at times to find his command, and is clearly still throwing too many pitches, but the stuff is certainly still there. He still has time to turn it around.
Appel, however, does not, as his time with the organization is likely over. It wasn’t eventful. It wasn’t even productive. But it was, in fact, a thing that happened. That we can’t deny. Maybe another team can figure him out.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports