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Former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel completes long journey from Stanford to MLB

Jul 1, 2022

Mark Appel’s long, winding road to the Major Leagues is finally complete. The 30-year-old, who was the No. 1 overall pick out of Stanford in 2013, finally made his MLB debut with the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, striking out one in a scoreless ninth inning. 

Appel became the oldest player ever taken at No. 1 overall to make his MLB debut. Three former top picks never made it to the big leagues and for far too long Appel looked destined to be the fourth.

Before his trials at professional level, Appel was considered the top amateur arm in the world. At the Farm, Appel starred as the Cardinal’s ace. The right-hander left Stanford with a 2.57 ERA, striking out over nine batters per nine innings.

His final year was particularly dominant, with Appel going 10-4 with four complete games and a .203 batting average against. Appel is still Stanford’s all-time strikeout leader with 372. 

Appel’s masterful college career earned him the first overall selection by the Houston Astros. But things went downhill from there. Appel suffered through bloated ERAs and injuries without ever getting a whiff of the Major Leagues.

“I was literally hopeless. I had given up on ever having this day come,” Appel said in an interview with MLB Network.

Fed up with the struggle, Appel took three years away from the game he loved. He took time to connect with friends, kayak, backpack, and volunteer in his hometown.

But in 2021, the former Cardinal decided to give baseball one last try. 

Now a reliever in the Phillies’ organization, Appel had more success in his second go-round in professional ball, posting a perfect 5-0 record with a minuscule 1.61 ERA in 19 appearances in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

That success culminated on the end of a long journey on Wednesday night when Appel got called up and made his MLB debut. As the former top college prospect finally made good on his quest to make it to the show.