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Mark Appel, chosen ahead of Kris Bryant and other All-Stars as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, is stepping away from baseball after several frustrating seasons.
In an interview with Bleacher Report, Appel, a 26-year-old right-handed pitcher, says he is taking an “indefinite break” from the game after his career hit a roadblock at Class AAA. In 2017, Appel was shelled at Class AAA, posting a 5.60 ERA for Lehigh Valley (Pa.).
That continued a pattern of poor performance that Appel traces to his first full season of pro ball in 2014, when he was peppered in the hitter-friendly California League.
Chosen by the Astros one pick ahead of 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, Appel was traded in December 2015 to Philadelphia in a seven-player deal that brought closer Ken Giles to Houston.
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The change of scenery did not help, and over parts of three Class AAA seasons Appel posted a 4.83 ERA and walked nearly five batters per nine innings.
While 25 of his 39 first-round draft mates made the major leagues, Appel languished, and now may become the third No. 1 overall pick (joining Brien Taylor, 1991, and Steve Chilcott, 1966) to not make the major leagues.
Appel also saw several of his Astros minor league teammates celebrate a World Series championship last November. All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa, three years younger than Appel, was the first overall pick in 2012.
“Maybe we should all get together and have a party,” Appel told Bleacher Report. “I don’t know what the future holds. I’m pursuing other things, but also trying to become a healthy human.”
Appel, a Stanford graduate who has settled in Houston, said he plans to seek an internship and apply to business schools, including Stanford, Rice and Harvard. He received a $6.35 million signing bonus when he signed with the Astros.