No. 14: Right-Handed Pitcher Mark Appel
When the Phillies traded Ken Giles last offseason, the team acquired two big-name pitchers in Vince Velasquez and Mark Appel. Appel was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, giving him a high bar to reach. Unfortunately, Appel hasn’t lived up to the hype.
Appel’s 2015 was less than ideal after reaching the upper-minors. In 25 starts between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno, Appel had a 4.37 ERA and 1.44 WHIP.
When Appel reached spring training with the Phillies, he felt like the change of scenery could really benefit him. Appel told Kelsie Heneghan of MiLB.com:
"“I think that being able to hit the reset button with the new organization and go about things with a different focus and not having really the expectation and the pressure of being the first overall pick with that organization. I think mentally it feels a little bit different and it feels different in a very good way.”"
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Through his first four starts in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Appel looked to be a pitcher worth the No. 1 overall pick. Appel had a 1.64 ERA and opposing hitters had a .244 average in that span. When May rolled around, Appel fell apart. His ERA ballooned to 8.27 ERA in his next four starts with a 1.90 WHIP.
Looking at each aspect of Appel’s arsenal, it doesn’t correlate with his struggles.
His fastball ranges from 92-96 mph, sometimes hitting upwards of 98. His slider and changeup could both be plus off-speed pitches. What causes the struggles is his lack of consistency. In most starts, only one of Appel’s three pitches actually looks plus while the others struggle. He needs to hone in his command of each pitch as well as commanding two at one time.
Appel landed on the disabled list with a strained shoulder May 27. As he was working back from the injury, he sustained another injury, this time to his elbow. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Appel underwent season-ending shoulder surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in late June. Jim Salisbury of CSN reported Appel was throwing earlier this month and “is expected to be on a mound in a few weeks.”
Appel’s injury could be what protects from the Rule 5 draft this offseason. The Phillies have to add Appel to the 40-man roster or leave him open to the draft. Plenty of teams would be scared away by the recent surgery, but just one would have to take the risk on Appel. The club is likely to protect Appel rather than losing him just a year after acquiring him.