Mark Appel is one of the most famous draft busts in recent seasons, and he was also the 8th overall pick by Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2012 MLB Draft. Like the names we talked about before, because the Pirates weren’t willing to meet his demands for a $6 million signing bonus, offering a still hefty amount of $3.8 million, Appel did not sign with the Bucs. This wasn’t anything new for the pitcher, as he also didn’t sign with the Detroit Tigers who drafted him in the 15th round in 2009.
Finally, in 2013, after being drafted 1st overall by the Astros, he signed with the team on a $6.35 million signing bonus. However, as we all know, this never panned out. Appel did well in his first pro season, posting a 3.79 ERA in his first 38 innings of ball, along with a strong 2.89 FIP. But in 2014, his ERA rose to a worrisome 6.91 and he gave up 109 hits in just 83.1 innings of work. 11 of which were home runs.
In 2015, Appel did better, albeit still not good. Across 131.2 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A, the right handed prospect posted a 4.27 ERA, 4.07 FIP, and 1.41 WHIP. It was his best season so far with at 50 innings pitched, and the luster of being a first overall pick was starting to wear off.
During the 2015-2016 off season, Mark was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, along with Vince Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Tom Eshelman, and Harold Arauz for closer Ken Giles, who was coming off a 1.80 ERA/2.13 FIP season, and Jonathan Arauz. Appel played only eight games and 38.1 innings after having to undergo season ending elbow surgery in June.
Now 25-years-old, Appel returned in 2017, but struggled once again. Through 84 innings (82 coming from Triple-A, 2 coming from Rookie Ball), the former two-time 1st round draft pick, and top 8 overall pick gave up 48 earned runs, surrendered 54 free passes, and struck out just 60 batters. He also threw 12 wild pitches.
At the end of the year, the Phillies designated Appel for assignment, and although he cleared waivers and could have continued his playing career, Appel has since “Stepped away from baseball”. He never officially retired and is still only 28 years old, but it seems likely we won’t see Appel, at least on the field as a player again. Appel, a Stanford graduate, is now attending business school, so maybe we’ll see him once again in the future in a front office role of some sort.
While nearly all the names we’ve talked about in these articles are players the Pittsburgh Pirates missed out on, or could have changed the course of history for the ball club, not being able to sign Appel was probably one of the few where the Pirates dodged a bullet.