Former No. 1 pick Mark Appel gets MLB call-up 9 years after being drafted

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In 2013, Mark Appel was an elite MLB prospect, drafted first overall out of Stanford by the Houston Astros.

On Saturday — nine years later — he's slated to make his debut in an MLB uniform. Appel, 20 days shy of his 31st birthday, is joining the Philadelphia Phillies from Triple-A Lehigh Valley for a game against the San Diego Padres. He'll replace reliever Connor Brogdon, who was placed on the COVID-19 injured list. It's the first MLB call-up of his career.

He wrote about his feelings on Twitter after hearing the news.

Appel bounced around the minor leagues from 2013-17 — first with the Astros organization and then with the Phillies after a 2015 trade. After injuries and ineffectiveness (5.06 ERA, 1.52 WHIP in five leagues in the minors) took their toll, he left baseball in 2018 amid chatter that he was "perhaps the biggest bust in MLB history."

Reading, PA - May 3: Fightin's pitcher Mark Appel (25) answers questions during media day. During 2021 Media Day for the Reading Fightin Phils baseball team at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, PA Monday May 3, 2021. The Fightins are a Double-A affiliate of the National League Philadelphia Phillies. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)
Mark Appel, seen here with the Reading Fightin Phils in 2021. (Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Appel was expected by some to make his MLB debut within a season of being drafted. Instead, he battled soreness, shoulder inflammation and a bone spur that required surgery in 2016. Meanwhile, some of his fellow first-round picks were reaching MLB stardom.

No. 2 overall pick Kris Bryant won a World Series and NL MVP trophy with the Chicago Cubs. No. 17 pick Tim Anderson became an All-Star and the face of the Chicago White Sox. No. 32 pick Aaron Judge was named AL Rookie of the Year in 2017 en route to becoming a multi-time All-Star and one of the most feared sluggers in baseball with the New York Yankees.

After three years away from baseball, Appel decided to take another shot in 2021 when he returned to the Phillies minor league system. He opened up in a Twitter thread about his journey that included a bout with depression.

Now he's getting his MLB shot. It's not the journey he and his supporters expected. But he's clearly relishing his chance.