Appel with the Houston Astros organization
|Born: July 15, 1991|
After being drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers in 2009, Appel elected to attend Stanford University and play for the Stanford Cardinal baseball team. Named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association's Pitcher of the Year in 2012, he was projected as the first overall draft choice in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, but fell in the draft due to signability concerns. Appel did not sign after being selected eighth overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates, returning to Stanford for his senior season.
The Houston Astros selected him with the first overall pick in the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft, and he signed with them. Appel was traded to the Phillies after the 2015 season. After continued struggles, he was designated for assignment by the Phillies on November 20, 2017. In February 2018, at the age of 26, Appel announced that he would step away from baseball. If Appel never returns to the game, he will be the third number-one MLB draft pick prior to 2013 never to play in the major leagues, after Steve Chilcott and Brien Taylor. The Phillies retain his rights, should he decide to play again.
High school career
Appel attended Monte Vista High School in Danville, California. As a senior in high school, Appel was a relief pitcher He became the best closer in the section and threw a no-hitter that cemented his position in the 2009 MLB draft. In addition to baseball, Appel also played basketball at Monte Vista High School.
The Detroit Tigers selected Appel in the 15th round, with the 450th overall selection, of the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft. Appel did not sign, as he was committed to attend Stanford University. At Stanford, Appel received a scholarship to play college baseball for the Stanford Cardinal baseball team, competing in the Pac-10 Conference. Appel began his collegiate career as a reliever, and had several spot starts as a freshman, but became a starting pitcher during his sophomore season. In the summer of 2010, he played for the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL), posting a 6–1 record and 1.87 ERA and earning First Team All-NECBL and Top Pro Prospect honors. As a sophomore in 2011, Appel had a 6–7 win–loss record with a 3.02 earned run average (ERA) in 110 1⁄3 innings pitched.
Appel was named a First Team All-American before the 2012 season. As a junior, he pitched to a 10–2 record and 2.56 ERA, and won the National Pitcher of the Year Award. Appel was projected as a potential first overall pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, but reportedly rejected an offer from the Astros for a $6 million signing bonus. Due to the high perceived bonus demands, Appel fell in the draft to the 8th overall selection, where he was chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, Appel did not sign with the Pirates before the July 13, 2012, deadline and instead played his senior year at Stanford. He turned down an offer of a $3.8 million signing bonus.
Appel graduated from Stanford after the fall semester, receiving a degree in Management Science and Engineering. For the Cardinal baseball team, Appel pitched to a 10–4 record with a 2.12 ERA and struck out 130 batters in 106 1⁄3 innings. The Pac-12 Conference honored him as their Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Appel was selected by the Houston Astros with the first pick in the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft. On June 19, he signed with the Astros for a signing bonus worth $6.35 million. Appel made his professional debut in July with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Class A-Short Season New York–Penn League. After making two starts for Tri-City, the Astros promoted Appel to the Quad Cities River Bandits of the Class A Midwest League. When Appel joined Quad Cities, teaming with Carlos Correa, this marked the first time that two consecutive first overall draft picks played for the same minor league team. The Astros ended Appel's season in August, with approximately 140 innings pitched on the season, between college and minor league baseball. For Tri-City and Quad Cities, Appel pitched to a 3–1 record in 10 games started, with a 3.79 ERA and 33 strikeouts with nine walks in 38 innings.
The Astros invited Appel to spring training in 2014 as a non-roster player. Appel underwent an appendectomy in January, which delayed his preparations for the 2014 season. He was reassigned to minor league camp, where he made his spring debut. He started for the Astros in their final spring training game, throwing three scoreless innings against the Rojos del Águila de Veracruz of the Mexican League. The Astros assigned Appel to the Lancaster JetHawks of the Class A-Advanced California League at the start of the regular season. He struggled with his adaptation to the Astros' tandem starting rotation, and went to extended spring training after four starts. After a month, he returned to Lancaster. After pitching to a 2–5 record and a 9.74 ERA in 12 starts for Lancaster, the Astros promoted Appel to the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Class AA Texas League. Jeff Luhnow, the Astros' general manager, noted Lancaster's "hostile pitching environment", and stated that it was the Astros' intention to have Appel pitch in Corpus Christi in 2014 regardless of his performance in Lancaster. Appel finished the regular season with a 1–2 win-loss record and a 3.69 ERA in seven games for Corpus Christi. These struggles were attributed to command struggles and a low strikeout rate. The Astros then assigned him to the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League after the season, where he had a 2.61 ERA and 24 strikeouts to eight walks in 31 innings pitched, while limiting opponents to a .167 batting average against.
Appel began the 2015 season with Corpus Christi. He was chosen to represent the Astros at the 2015 All-Star Futures Game. Appel pitched to a 5–1 record and a 4.26 ERA in 13 starts for Corpus Christi before the Astros promoted Appel to the Fresno Grizzlies of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League in June. Appel finished the 2015 season with a 4.48 ERA in 12 starts for Fresno.
On December 12, 2015, the Astros traded Appel, Vince Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Tom Eshelman, and Harold Arauz to the Philadelphia Phillies for Ken Giles and Jonathan Arauz. He began the 2016 season with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs of the Class AAA International League. In May 2016, Appel was placed on the disabled list due to a shoulder injury. While rehabbing his arm, Appel injured his elbow. On June 29, 2016, Appel underwent season-ending surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow.
The Phillies added Appel to their 40-man roster after the 2016 season. Appel began the 2017 season with Lehigh Valley. He suffered a shoulder injury in July, and returned to Lehigh Valley in September. He ended the season with a 5-4 record and a 5.14 ERA in 17 games started. The Phillies designated Appel for assignment on November 20, 2017.
On February 1, 2018, Appel announced that he would be stepping away from baseball at the age of 26. He was placed on the restricted list.
Appel was born in Houston, Texas. His family moved to San Ramon, California, when he was 12 years old. Appel's father, Patrick, works as a lawyer for the Chevron Corporation. Patrick and Appel's mother, Sondra, lived in Beijing for a time. Appel has an older brother, John.
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