In June 2013, Mark Appel was the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft. In March 2015, Baseball America named him the 31st best prospect in baseball. In December 2015, he was a key piece in a major trade. And now, barely two years later, he is stepping away from baseball without having thrown a single pitch in the Majors.
Appel told Bleacher Report that he will take a “break” from baseball as he pursues “other things.” Barring a wildly successful return, Appel will go down as one of the biggest busts in draft history.
And now, Appel is leaving the game behind, he tells Bleacher Report, taking an “indefinite break” from professional baseball. Should he never return to baseball, he would become just the third No. 1 overall pick to never make the major leagues, along with Brien Taylor of the New York Yankees (1991) and Steve Chilcott of the New York Mets (1966).“Maybe we should all get together and have a party,” Appel says with a laugh in his Houston home. “I don’t know what the future holds. I’m pursuing other things, but also trying to become a healthy human.”
Appel, 26, owns a 5.06 ERA over five minor-league seasons in the Astros and Phillies’ organizations. He spent most of the 2017 season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he posted a 5.14 ERA over 84 innings, with 53 walks and 60 strikeouts.
Appel’s disastrous pro career has been particularly surprising given that he was once considered an eminently safe prospect. He was a dominant pitcher at Stanford and was drafted No. 8 overall in 2012 by the Pirates before returning to school to become the No. 1 overall pick the following year. The Astros, who had passed over him for Carlos Correa in 2012, selected him in 2013 surely imagining him hurling gems on the way to a World Series championship. They won that title last fall, but Appel was watching from his couch in Houston.
But that’s how sports go sometimes. Even the most promising prospects often fall flat, and there’s not always a satisfying explanation of why. We hope Appel finds success and happiness in whatever is next, whether that is baseball or something else.