By Michael Lipinski, Sports Talk Philly Editor
Mark Appel’s name was beginning to find its way onto a list that no ballplayer wants their name attached to, “Biggest MLB Draft busts of all-time.”
And why shouldn’t it. The 1st overall pick in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft is approaching 31-years old, owns a 5.01 MiLB ERA, retired for three-years and hasn’t stepped foot on a Major League mound.
Appel could’ve called it a career, took his millions and went home to California. Instead he did what many pro athletes don’t do, he put his pride aside and changed.
A starter for the majority of his baseball life, Appel made adjustments to his grip, his approach, and most importantly his role. He moved from the rotation to the bullpen and the results have been eye opening.
Appel is 5-0 with a 1.61 ERA, 24 Ks, and a 0.93 WHIP in 28.0 innings pitched since moving to the ‘pen. He’s also five-for-five in save opportunities for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
His velocity, yeah that’s back too. Appel’s fastball sits in the 96-98 MPH range according to scouts who have watched him with the IronPigs. His off-speed stuff has been just as electric.
Mark Appel finished off a clean ninth inning with a strikeout on that hard-biting slider last night. He was pitching for the second time in three days. It feels like they’re getting him ready for a call up. He’s allowed 1 hit and 0 runs with 7 Ks & 2 BB in his last 6 outings pic.twitter.com/YXpMEjfPV7
— Mitch Rupert (@Mitch_Rupert) June 24, 2022
Appel’s early season surprise has been enough to (finally) get the call to the Big Leagues. He will be available from the bullpen for the Phillies on Saturday in San Diego.
Now the questions becomes, what can Appel become for the Phillies?
The Athletic’s Peter Gammons references Baltimore’s Jorge López as an example of what Appel could become.
López struggled as a starter for the Orioles in 2021 with a ghastly 3-14 record with a 6.07 ERA. He was moved to the bullpen and has been nearly “untouchable” as Gammons puts it. López has 13-save, with a 0.75 ERA, 36 Ks, and 0.806 WHIP for the O’s.
Appel has shown similar “stuff” albeit in Triple-A. Will it transition to the Bigs? Appel, and the Phillies, should make sure they use every opportunity to find out.
Mark Appel strands the tying run on base with a nasty back foot slider to close out Lehigh Valley’s win over Rochester … Second save of the year for Appel pic.twitter.com/to4cBuxvba
— Mitch Rupert (@Mitch_Rupert) May 19, 2022
Appel still needs to work on his command but a reliever with a 96-98 MPH fastball with a bitting Lidge-like slider isn’t something that comes along every day. At least not one that just hanging in the minor league system.
The Phillies could certainly use a Diamond in the rough and Appel’s grit and determination deserve success.