Looking back at just how lucky the Cubs were in the 2013 MLB Draft

Tony Andracki
NBC Sports Chicago
<p>The Cubs have made a lot of great moves to get to the point they are right now with sustained success, but they also got quite lucky along the way.</p>

Looking back at just how lucky the Cubs were in the 2013 MLB Draft

The Cubs have made a lot of great moves to get to the point they are right now with sustained success, but they also got quite lucky along the way.

Revisionist history is one of the best parts of being a sports fan.

Looking back at how drafts went for each league, realizing what teams made mistakes and what teams got lucky is a modern-day American national pasttime.

The Cubs certainly deserve a lot of credit for drafting and developing Kris Bryant, but they also got really, really lucky, too. 

Thursday morning represented more proof of that.

Mark Appel - the former can't-miss pitching prospect selected right before the Cubs grabbed Bryant in 2013 - announced he will be stepping away from baseball at age 26.

If Appel never returns to the professional game, he will become just the third player ever to be selected No. 1 overall and not even reach the majors.

The Houston Astros chose to pass on Bryant, opting for Appel out of Stanford instead. At first, the move looked fine. Appel found himself among all the top prospect lists in the game for three straight seasons, but the numbers never matched that reputation.

Appel wound up making 37 starts at Triple-A Iowa, but posted a 4.82 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in those games. In his five-year minor-league career, the 6-foot-5 right-hander sported a gawdy 5.06 ERA.

He was traded from Houston to the Philadelphia Phillies before the 2016 season and even a change of scenery didn't help matters.

Still, things worked out just fine for the Astros, who will head into 2018 as the defending champs - which is even more impressive now after getting no help from their No. 1 overall pick five years ago.

Had the Astros gone with Bryant first overall, it obviously would've changed the landscape of both franchises. It's hard to even envision the Cubs without Kris Bryant let alone trying to think how the Cubs would've ended the longest championship drought in American sports history.

If Bryant was the consensus first pick, would the Cubs - selecting second - have gone with Appel or Jon Gray? At the time, the three players were seen as clear frontrunners. Gray - selected third by the Rockies - has emerged as a budding ace in Colorado and could draw the Opening Day start in 2018.

The rest of the 2013 first round didn't fare much better than the Astros, so the Cubs were also lucky just to be choosing second overall:

After Gray, the next nine players selected in 2013 have combined for just -0.1 WAR. Later in the first round, only Tim Anderson (17th), Aaron Judge (32nd), Sean Manaea (34th) and Corey Knebel (39th) have provided any notable impact for their big-league club to date.

Theo Epstein's front office did so many things right to get to this point of sustained success, but they also needed quite a bit of luck along the way and they were never more fortunate than the 2013 MLB Draft.

What to Read Next