Jun 27, 2022 - Sports

Mark Appel's long road to the big leagues

Mark Appel through the years
Mark Appel in 2013 and 2021. Photos: Scott Halleran/Getty Images; Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Mark Appel, drafted No. 1 by the Astros in 2013, earned his first MLB call-up on Saturday with the Phillies.

Why it matters: Appel, 30, was one of only three No. 1 picks in MLB history to sign with their team but never make the big leagues. He's now off that list after making it to "the show."

  • "Completely overwhelmed," said Appel. "I have so many thoughts I want to share but can't find the words, so I'll just say this: I'm thankful."
  • Context: Nine years is a long time. Fellow 2013 draftees like Kris Bryant (No. 2), Tim Anderson (No. 17), Aaron Judge (No. 32) and Cody Bellinger (No. 124) have already become superstars.

The backdrop: The Stanford graduate and 2012 National Pitcher of the Year was drafted first overall in 2013 by his hometown Astros, who signed him for $6.35 million.

  • He was MLB's No. 6 pitching prospect in 2014 before Houston traded the oft-injured and ineffective Appel to the Phillies in 2015.
  • In 2018, battling inconsistency, injuries and depression, he left baseball. Three years later, he returned to the Phillies organization, where he's excelled as a reliever this season in Triple-A.
  • On Saturday, with reliever Connor Brogdon on the COVID IL, he finally got the call he's been waiting nearly a decade to receive.

The big picture: Appel was an established college star before injuries derailed his pro career, but a pair of high school draftees who endured similarly long delays offer optimism for his future.

  • Matt Bush, the No. 1 pick in 2004, debuted in 2016 after battling alcoholism. At 36, he's still part of the Rangers' bullpen.
  • Josh Hamilton, the No. 1 pick in 1999, debuted in 2007 after he battled alcoholism and drug addiction. He won the 2010 AL MVP and was a five-time All-Star.

The bottom line: No matter your talent it's impossible to prove yourself if you never get the opportunity. Mark Appel is finally getting his.

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