After being drafted with the number one overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, Mark Appel is leaving the Phillies’ organization and stepping away from the game.
Appel is the latest high draft pick to come out of the collegiate ranks who didn’t experience the big league success envisioned when the Houston Astros selected him first overall five years ago. The 26-year-old starting pitcher never surfaced at the Major League for the Astros in his three seasons with the Astros farm system, reaching the AAA level with the Fresno Grizzlies in 2015. He successfully threw 140 innings his rookie campaign between his time at Stanford University and the Tri-City ValleyCats before being shut down due to usage. Following the 2013 season, Appel battled through surgery and struggles at nearly every level of professional ball, including a near 10 ERA in AA 12 starts with the Lancaster Jethawks. He concluded his 2014 campaign with a 6.91 ERA in just 19 appearances between Single and AA. Appel won just three games in 2014 in 83.1 innings pitched, allowing 133 baserunners over that span.
2014 appeared to be a breakout year for Appel, who’s numbers were plummeted in all the right places, and increased in similar fashion in others. Between AA Corpus Christi and AAA Fresno, Appel won 10 games in 25 starts, posting a 4.37 ERA. Appel’s WHIP dropped over 0.2 points, contrived primarily from a better command and strikeout/walk ratio. While the hit total was too high, as Appel surrendered 135 hits in 131 innings, the remainder of Appel’s numbers went in positive directions. The 2016 season was set to be a spring board for Appel.
But Appel never got the chance to improve on his statistically impressive 2015 for the Astros’ farm, as he was dealt in a seven player trade that sent five players to the Phillies, including Appel, Vince Velasquez and mroe in exchange for Ken Giles. The Phillies hoped to generate a second year of contribution from Appel after his successful 2015.
The Phillies were never able to get a fully healthy Appel in the two years he was with the organization, and Appel was never able to make the jump to the big leagues. He pitched in just eight games in 2016, going 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA over 38.1 innings. His WHIP shot up once more, as Appel walked 34 and allowed 40 hits over that span. Appel injured his shoulder in May of that year, and was placed on the disabled list. He then injured his elbow while rehabbing the shoulder injury, and subsequently shut down in June.
Last season, Appel began the year on the 40-man roster with Lehigh Valley, once more. He regressed in year two with the Iron Pigs, tossing 82 innings in 17 starts, winning just five games and posting a 5.27 ERA. He injured his shoulder once more in July, 2017 and wouldn’t return until the last month of the season.
At the end of the year, the Phillies designated Appel for assignment.
After five years in the minor leagues with two organizations, Appel never blossomed into the star the Astros had hoped he would. In five years, Appel appeared in just 81 games, making 78 starts. He went 24-18 throughout the minor league system, posting a final career ERA of 5.06. Appel’s biggest issue throughout his career was his elevated WHIP. The righty gave up 412 hits alone in 375 innings.
While his career isn’t necessarily over, Appel has announced he is taking the leave to focus on other aspects of his life.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports