Going into the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft, the Houston Astros were absolutely abysmal, having lost 107 games in the 2012 season, and on pace to lose 111 games in the current season. New owner Jim Crane hired general manager Jeff Luhnow in 2011 to turn the club around, and Luhnow selected Carlos Correa first overall in 2012 — a pick that would pay dividends.
In the 2013 draft, the new-look ball club once again had the first-overall pick, and Luhnow would take pitcher Mark Appel. In his senior season at Stanford, Appel managed a 10-4 record with a 2.12 ERA.
This seemed like a great pick by the Astros, but as years would go by, Mark Appel would turn into one of the biggest busts in baseball history.
In three seasons spread out amongst different Minor League affiliates of the Astros, Appel never made it past Triple A. In 2015, after finally seeing enough, the ball club would deal Appel to the Philadelphia Phillies in a package deal for Ken Giles and Jonathan Arauz.
Unfortunately for Appel, he did not fare much better in the Phillies’ organization, and he would step away from baseball in 2018 at the age of 26. Now, to be fair, Appel dealt with a lot of injuries during this first chapter of his professional career from an appendectomy to a shoulder injury to an elbow injury while rehabbing his shoulder to another shoulder injury.
But, the other factor in play here is that during much of this time Appel was struggling with his mental health. Being a first-overall pick by an organization whose fans were begging for a star to save them from the depths of its division brings an immense amount of pressure.
After three years of being out of baseball, Appel decided to make a comeback. In 2021, his first year back, he managed a 3-6 record and a 6.18 ERA across a combined year in Double A and Triple A — he spent most of the season in Triple A. This was not a great year, but albeit not necessarily a horrible one.
However, in the 2022 season, at the age of 30, Appel has thus far proved himself to no longer be a bust.
I wrote this article because there has been basically no coverage on what Appel is doing this year, which is quite disappointing, because of how much media coverage his failures earlier in his career had.
I love a good success story, and this is exactly what Appel is shaping his season up to be. In Triple A for the Phillies, he has managed a 4-0 record with a 1.80 ERA across 20 innings. Nine years after he was selected first overall, Appel has finally found his stuff, and I could not be happier for the guy.
He reminds me a bit of Charlie Morton, who struggled mightily with injuries and poor performances early in his career, to later becoming a star at the age of 33. If Appel keeps this up, there is no reason for the Phillies not to give him his first crack at the Show later this year.
Especially with the fact that their fifth starter, Zach Eflin, currently sits at a 1-4 record with a 4.60 ERA. The ball club also is a mediocre 21-27 on the year thus far. If things do not turn around for the club, I would expect an Appel call up sometime late in the summer.