More than 3,000 days after he was taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, Mark Appel finally stepped foot on a big league mound.
Appel was called in to pitch in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 4–1 defeat to the Braves, giving up no runs on one hit with one strikeout on 10 pitches. The performance completed a nine-year odyssey that saw Appel overcome injuries, ineffectiveness and a retirement in 2018 to finally realize his dream.
Before his debut, Appel was one of just three No. 1 picks in baseball history—along with Brien Taylor (Yankees, 1991) and Steven Chilcott (Mets, ’66)—to not make it to the big leagues. Now, he’s officially a major league player, becoming the oldest former top pick (30 years and 349 days) to make his debut.
After getting drafted by Houston in 2013, Appel could never quite find his footing professionally. He posted a 6.91 ERA in his first full minor league season in ’14 and was traded by the Astros to the Phillies the following year as part of the Ken Giles deal.
The situation didn’t get much better with Philadelphia. Appel posted a 4.93 ERA during two seasons in Triple A, a run that included bone spur surgery in 2016 and right shoulder inflammation in ’17. He eventually walked away from the game entirely in ’18 at the age of 26.
In March 2021, Appel announced he would attempt a comeback. He went a combined 3–6 with a 6.06 ERA in 23 appearances and 15 starts last season with Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies made him a relief pitcher this season, with good results: Appel is 5–0 with a 1.61 ERA in 19 appearances in Triple A, racking up 24 strikeouts and just eight walks in 28 innings so far this season.
More MLB Coverage:
• Freddie Freeman’s Love for Atlanta Shouldn’t Alienate Los Angeles
• The Carlos Santana Move Sets the Tone for Trade Deadline Season
• Juan Soto’s Patience Is Being Tested Like Never Before
• The Rays Need Front Office Creativity Once Again
• Aaron Judge and the Yankees Find a Compromise