6:11PM: The Phillies have officially selected Appel’s contract and placed Brogdon on the COVID-IL.
8:10AM: The Phillies announced to reporters, including Matt Gelb of The Athletic, that they are placing right-hander Connor Brogdon on the COVID-related injured list. Taking his place on the roster will be fellow righty Mark Appel.
Whenever Appel gets into a game, it will be his MLB debut, thus concluding one of the more unique journeys to the big leagues. As the Astros were in the midst of a years-long rebuild, they racked up a number of premium draft picks, which they were able to use to select players like George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. Those players ended up forming a huge part of the core of the team, which would go on to make the playoffs in six out of the past seven seasons and is likely to do so again this year, including the now-controversial 2017 World Series championship. One that didn’t quite go as planned for the club, however, was the selection of Appel with the first overall draft pick in 2013.
Appel had actually been selected twice before but wasn’t signed. The Tigers selected him out of high school in the 15th round back in 2009, though Appel wound up going to Stanford instead. By the time 2012 rolled around, Appel was seen as the top talent in the draft, but he came with signability concerns. The Pirates selected him eighth overall but Appel indeed returned to Stanford. Once drafted and signed by the Astros, Appel was instantly considered one of the top prospects in the game, with Baseball America ranking him #39 in 2014 and then #31 in 2015. However, Appel’s numbers seemed to slip as he reached the higher levels of the minors. In 2015, between Double-A and Triple-A, his ERA came in at a middling 4.37, along with a strikeout rate of just 19.1% and walk rate of 8.9%. On the heels of that season, the Astros traded Appel and four other prospects to the Phillies for Ken Giles and Jonathan Arauz.
The change of scenery didn’t seem to help much, as Appel dealt with injuries and underperformance in the Phillies’ organization. He was selected to the club’s 40-man roster prior to the 2017 season but was designated for assignment and outrighted at the end of that campaign. In February of 2018, Appel decided to step away from baseball, opening up about his decision in a candid interview. However, in March of last year, it was reported that Appel was attempting a comeback attempt, after missing three entire seasons.
In 2021, Appel split his time between Double-A and Triple-A, throwing 71 1/3 innings. He managed just a 6.06 ERA, though some rust would certainly be understandable after such a long layoff. He started 15 of his 23 appearances last year but has switched over to relief entirely in 2022, with much improved results. In 19 Triple-A appearances this season, he’s thrown 28 frames with a 1.61 ERA, along with a 21.8% strikeout rate, 7.3% walk rate and 47.3% ground ball rate. Based on that performance, he’s now getting the call he’s waited so long to receive.
In spite of all the twists and turns on that journey, Appel is now just 30 years old, turning 31 in about three weeks. This selection to the big league roster is a testament to his determination and perseverance. The hurler himself took to Twitter and attempted to sum up his feelings on this incredible day. “Completely overwhelmed. I have so many thoughts I want to share but can’t find the words, so I’ll just say this: I’m thankful. Today, I get to play a game I love as a Major League Baseball player.”