In 2013, Mark Appel was the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft and a can't-miss prospect. Now, five years later, the 26-year-old is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the game.
"I don't know what the future holds. I'm pursuing other things, but also trying to become a healthy human," Appel told Bleacher Report. "I'm 26, I have a Stanford degree, I have many interests beyond baseball, which I still love, but I have a lot of things I care about. I enjoy challenging my mind. My last four years in baseball have challenged my mind."
Appel told Bleacher Report that he hasn't ruled out a future return to baseball.
Appel's hometown team, the Houston Astros, selected him first overall in the 2013 draft. The right-hander's professional career got off to a solid start but took a turn in 2014, when he posted a 6.91 ERA in 83 1/3 innings pitched.
After a lackluster 2015, Appel was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in a deal that landed the Astros closer Ken Giles. Appel's struggles continued in the Phillies' organization and he missed the second half of the 2016 season after needing elbow surgery.
Appel had a 5.27 ERA in 17 starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year. In November, the Phillies designated him for assignment and outrighted him to Triple-A after he cleared waivers.
Given his struggles, Appel has yet to make his major league debut.
"I had high expectations. I didn't live up to those for a number of reasons. If you want to call me the biggest draft bust, you can call it that," he told Bleacher Report. "If I never get to the big leagues, will it be a disappointment? Yes and no. That was a goal and a dream I had at one point, but that's with stipulations that I'm healthy, I'm happy and doing something I love.
"If I get to the big leagues, what's so great about the big leagues if you're in an isolated place, you're hurt and you're emotionally unhappy? How much is that worth to you?
"Some people have real struggles. I played baseball. I thought I was going to be great, and I wasn't."
--Field Level Media