After nine years of fighting to get to the bigs, Phillies’ pitcher Mark Appel has finally achieved his dream at the ripe age of 30 years old. A long and uncertain journey has got him to this point but many don’t understand how hard this man worked to get to the top.
The Road Unknown
Appel was a standout star in his first three seasons with Stanford. In that time span, he posted a 26-13 record with a 2.57 ERA and 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings. These numbers alone were enough for the Pittsburgh Pirates to select him eighth overall in the 2012 MLB draft but Appel opted to go back to his alma mater for one more year. His value only continued to climb at the conclusion of the following season so the Houston Astros made the decision to draft him first overall in the 2013 MLB draft.
What came after this final selection was anything but smooth sailing for a player of Appel’s caliber. After two seasons in Houston’s minor league system, he was traded with Vince Velazquez and others to the Phillies in 2015. Appel only lasted two seasons in Philadelphia’s minor league system before ultimately stepping away from the sport in 2017.
It seemed, at this point, that he was bound to be just another first overall pick who turned out to be one of the greatest busts in the history of the game. But fate had other plans for him.
When the 2021 season rolled around, Appel decided to lace up his cleats and rejoin Philadelphia in hopes of making it to the pros. His return to the mound couldn’t have gone any worse than it did. In 23 appearances (15 starts), he managed to put up a 3-6 record accompanied by an eye-popping 6.06 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. 2022 then became the season in which Appel would solely dedicate himself to focusing on a bullpen role instead of a starter.
This move proved to be effective in turning his career around while simultaneously exposing him to the organization’s front office. In 19 games with Lehigh Valley, Appel currently boasts a 5-0 record with a career-low 1.61 ERA, five saves, and 24 Ks over 28 innings of work. His hard work undoubtedly catapulted him into his first pro gig as it all started coming full circle as seen in an emotional tweet posted this morning.
This promotion also eliminated him from a short list of first overall picks who never made it to MLB. The other and still only two players in history to not reach the big leagues are pitcher Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees) and catcher Steve Chilcott (1966, Mets).
Mark Appel’s Road Ahead
With right-hander Connor Brogdon on the COVID-19 injured list, this move could not have worked out better for Appel. The Phillies are currently 6-4 in their last 10 games played with a 1-0 loss against San Diego being their latest let-down. Even in the midst of struggling to string hits together, their midseason success is peaking at the right time.
In June, they currently boast a 16-6 record with help from Kyle Schwarber and his eight of nineteen schwarbombs occurring in this month alone. Game three against the Padres begins tonight at 10:10 p.m. ET with Zach Eflin (2-5, 4.43 ERA) squaring off against Blake Snell (0-4, 5.46 ERA).
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire