Former No. 1 Overall Pick Mark Appel Finally Makes MLB Debut, Throws Scoreless Inning For Philadelphia Phillies

by Bryan Fyalkowski

Over nine years after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, Mark Appel made his debut with the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday. The 30-year-old pitcher fired a scoreless inning against the Atlanta Braves that included his first-career strikeout.

Appel was called upon in the top of the ninth inning with the Phillies trailing the Braves by a score of 4-1. His first pitch was a 97-mile-per-hour sinker called for a strike. He allowed one hit but got a called strikeout on Atlanta outfielder Adam Duvall. In all, he needed only 10 pitches to retire the side for a scoreless frame.

“It was hard to hold back tears,” Appel said in a post-game interview with MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. “I was just trying to take in the entire environment and take some mental pictures. I was just trying to soak it in and just remember what this feeling was like. It was just an emotional night and I really enjoyed it.”

Mark Appel’s Long Road to the Majors

Not only is it a crazy story because of how long it took him to reach the big leagues, but the roadblocks he overcame along the way. The Houston Astros drafted Mark Appel out of Stanford in 2013 and he spent a few years among the top-100 prospects list while working his way in the minors.

After the 2015 season, Houston traded Appel to the Phillies for closer Ken Giles. Now at the age of 24, he middled in Philadelphia’s high minors until 2018, when he decided to hang up the cleats. He was often injured and not motivated enough at the time to go through another rehab process just to continue to float in the minor leagues.

A few years later – after a lot of reflecting and otherwise – Appel made his return to the mound for the 2021 season. Results were not good, as he posted a 6.06 ERA in 71 innings at the age of 29.

But during this past offseason, Appel made some mechanical changes that allowed him to be successful as a relief pitcher. In 28 Triple-A innings before his call-up, he was 5-0 with five saves and a 1.61 ERA. The Phillies called him up earlier this week and his debut made for an unbelievable experience.

“Everyone has their own path – some guys are quick to the majors and become the superstar and some guys are grinders in the minors and finally get their shot,” Appel said. “Getting to see the reception I got in the dugout, it felt like I was just being brought into this fraternity of big-league ballplayers.”

Mark Appel Draws Strength from Above

Morosi asked Mark Appel what it means to him that other people going through struggles may find inspiration from his story. He replied very candidly.

“I want them to know that any strength or inspiration you see in me is really not me but God living through me. I’m very intimate with my brokenness with my failures, my mistakes, everything. I don’t find myself some guy who should be put on this pedestal,” Appel reflected. “Like, literally, what’s happening right now in my life is only by the grace of God. I was literally hopeless, I had given up on ever having this day come. But I think God re-ignited that spark in me. I think when God does something like that, it can take time, but it can be hard to stop. I’m really overwhelmed and I’m thankful.”

Wow, what an incredible perspective. Sounds like a guy everyone should be rooting for. Hopefully, he can continue his success and carve out a long MLB career.