Former No. 1 pick Mark Appel makes MLB debut nine years after being drafted

It was nine years in the making, but former No. 1 Mark Appel made his MLB debut on Wednesday following a turbulent start to his career due to injuries and mental health issues.

Selected by the Houston Astros with the No. 1 pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, Appel made his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies, entering in the ninth and pitching a scoreless inning in a 4-1 loss.

“One of the things that I came into this year knowing is that each day might be my last, and genuinely, I was at a point where I was just trying to figure out what my role was, reliever, starter, do I still have it in me to put up good numbers, things like that, so I was like if each day was going to be my last, I might as well enjoy it and I really enjoyed tonight,” Appel said after the game.

Less than a month before turning 31, Appel becomes the oldest No. 1 pick in baseball history to make their MLB debut.

The Phillies acquired the right-hander in a 2015 deal that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston. After struggling in the Phillies minor league system, Appel was designated for assignment in 2017 and eventually retired in 2018.

In 2021, after the Stanford product returned to the organization for minor league Spring training, writing in a post on Twitter at the time, “In 2013, I was the #1 overall pick in the MLB Draft. Five years later, I was called ‘the biggest bust in MLB history.’

“Today, I’m working my way back, and I’m here to share both the hard-earned lessons I’ve learned along the way.”

In his first year at Double-A, Appel struggled posting a 3-6 record with a 6.06 ERA in 23 appearances, 15 of those as a starting pitcher. Even after struggling, the 30-year-old was brought back by the Phillies, pitching out of the bullpen for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, notching an impressive 5-0 record, with a 1.61 ERA in 19 appearances.

On Saturday, Philadelphia called him up to the Major Leagues after placing reliever Connor Brogdon on the Covid-19 injured list.

“It almost felt like I was being brought into this fraternity of Major League Baseball players,” Appel said of his debut on Wednesday, adding: “It was hard to hold back tears.”

Appel was highly touted out of high school, with the Detroit Tigers drafting him in the 15th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft. In 2013, after opting to sign with Stanford University, Appel was again drafted, this time by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round. Appel again opted to return to school and was eventually selected with the first pick by the Houston Astros the following year.

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