The Phillies announced today that right-hander Mark Appel has been released. He had been in camp on a minor league deal. They also reassigned left-hander Ben Bowden, right-hander Louis Head and catcher Max McDowell to minor league camp.
Appel, 31, had been having a rough showing this spring. In six appearances, he allowed six walks and ten hits, including three home runs. He did record five strikeouts, but the seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings led to an ERA of 11.12.
The righty was looking continue a nice comeback story from last year. The first overall pick from the 2013 draft, taken by the Astros, Appel was a mainstay of top prospect lists for a few years. He was traded to the Phillies prior to the 2016 season in the deal that sent Ken Giles to Houston. Unfortunately, his results in the minors didn’t live up to his prospect pedigree, with elbow and shoulder injuries hampering his progress.
He walked away from the game after the 2017 season, candidly discussing his physical and mental struggles with Joon Lee of Bleacher Report at that time, admitting that he might be the worst draft bust in MLB history. “It depends on how you define it, but I probably am,” Appel said. “I had high expectations. I didn’t live up to those for a number of reasons. If you want to call me the biggest draft bust, you can call it that. … If I never get to the big leagues, will it be a disappointment? Yes and no. That was a goal and a dream I had at one point, but that’s with stipulations that I’m healthy, I’m happy and doing something I love. If I get to the big leagues, what’s so great about the big leagues if you’re in an isolated place, you’re hurt and you’re emotionally unhappy? How much is that worth to you?”
In 2021, he began a comeback attempt, returning to the Phillies. He only posted a 6.06 ERA in the minors that year, but it would be fair to expect a bit of rust after three years without any organized game action. He was much better last year, posting a 1.61 ERA in Triple-A through the end of June. Amazingly, his comeback attempt resulted in him finally getting to the majors. The Phillies selected him to the roster on June 25 and he was able to make six appearances for the club, with a 1.74 ERA in 10 1/3 innings. Some elbow inflammation put him on the injured list in September and ended his season, but he had made it to the show.
After the season, he was outrighted off the roster but returned to the Phillies on a minor league deal. Unfortunately, he’s hit another setback here in spring and has been set loose. Appel took to Twitter recenty to publicly ruminate about his current position, bringing the same kind of candidness he showed when walking away from the game all those years ago. It doesn’t appear he’s planning to walk away right now, but he is remarkably self-aware of the fact that he may have exhausted his opportunities.
“I am a 31-year-old rookie relief pitcher with 6 MLB appearances to my name,” he says in the thread. “I’m not on the 40-man roster. I’m a career 5+ minor league ERA pitcher with a history of injuries. All logic suggests the odds are not in my favor.” He continues: “The reality is I am one of a large number of players that find themselves in this “in-between” space. Good enough to help a big league team (in a small role) if given the opportunity, but too old or lacking experience for teams to be patient. The future is wildly uncertain.” Appel goes on to get into detail about his approach to battling the anxiety that comes with his precarious position and trying to lean into feelings of gratitude instead. “Gratitude lets me focus on the little things I get to do every day, despite not knowing what the future holds.”