By BRENNAN PRUSAK
After five years, former Major League Baseball No. 1 pick Mark Appel is stepping away from baseball at the age of 26. While he was “as risk-free a pitcher pick as has ever been made,” according to Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated, he never played a game in the Major Leagues and will become only the third first overall pick to do so.
Taken first overall in the 2013 draft by the Houston Astros, above National League MVP Kris Bryant and reigning American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, the expectations for Appel were through the roof. While many scouts and evaluators thought that he would rise to the majors quickly, some even stating that it may take less than a season, Appel amassed a 5.06 ERA and a 1.519 WHIP over five seasons in the minors. Hardly the numbers of a No. 1 pick.
Before the 2014 season, Appel was ranked at the No. 17 overall prospect in baseball but started to fall further and further down after posting a 9.74 ERA in 44.1 innings. These numbers weren’t just bad, they were absolutely awful. In the same year, the average ERA of pitchers in the Major Leagues was 3.74, a whopping six points less than Appel who was pitching against single A hitters. To put this in perspective, only about 10 percent of the hitters Appel was facing were likely to make it to the major leagues.
The next three seasons followed the same trajectory for Appel as finished with ERAs of 4.37, 4.46 and 5.14.
After taking a step back, Appel is excited to move forward with his life. He graduated from Stanford University before going to the pros and is now looking to attend business school at Rice, University of Texas, Texas A&M, Stanford, Harvard, Penn, Northwestern or the University of Chicago.
While some scouts have recommended that Appel attempt a comeback as a reliever, as a litany of failed starters have done successfully, it seems like he’s happy pursuing a life outside of baseball.
It’s easy to ask the question, “What if?” What if the Astros had selected Kris Bryant with the No. 1 pick? What if they took Aaron Judge? What if Appel lived up to the hype?
Luckily for the Astros, Carlos Correa (2012 first overall pick), George Springer (2011 11th overall pick) and Alex Bregman (2015 second overall pick) were able to lead the team to the 2017 World Series title, certainly numbing the pain of their failed number one pick in 2013. While these three picks hit, Mark Appel proves that there are certainly no guarantees in the MLB.