The legend of Mark Appel is a story that just keeps on growing. A first-rounder twice, he was taken with the top pick of the 2013 draft by Houston after his senior season with Stanford. At the time of his selection, he was viewed by all as a superstar pitcher in the waiting who wouldn't have to wait long. However, since being signed by the Astros, he has done nothing except confound evaluators and fans alike.
Virtually every scouting report on the internet about Appel mentions his raw stuff. This is for good reason, and he owes his once-lofty status to it. Think back to the world of 2012 and 2013. His fastball was well above MLB average already and some said that it was still improving. His slider was another potent weapon with wicked velocity and bite — as good as they come with projection to be better. His changeup, while not as flashy as the first two pitches, was to be excellent nonetheless.
There was even a bow on this package: Appel's ability to spot all three of his pitches. It was going to take lilttle to make him a living nightmare on the mound, a pitcher that'd make every batter he faced regret ever picking up the bat. FanGraphs and MLB.com both predicted a future atop a big league rotation.
Almost five years later, Appel has yet to pitch an MLB inning.
Despite being the master of some of the highest quality pitches in the minor leagues, the tall righty has had a disappointing and confusing career. His time in Houston was mediocre at best and with no answers as to how to fix him, they shipped him off. A big part of the trade that sent Ken Giles to the current World Champion Astros, Appel was send to Philadelphia. However, despite having spent two seasons there, he is no better off. Philly decided to cut bait and move on, designating him for assignment.
How will the saga continue? Tigers general manager Al Avila should do his best to bring Part III to Detroit.
Appel was designated for assignment on Nov. 20, meaning the Phillies have until the 27th to trade him. If they are unable to deal the perplexing pitcher, then it is unlikely that he will go unclaimed on waivers. The Tigers, owing the worst record of 2017, are first in line on the waiver wire, and therefore will have the first chance at getting him.
The appeal of such a player to a rebuilding team is obvious. He has a track record of impressive appraisals and, despite his rapidly fading star, his stuff is still deadly. Few teams in the Tigers' position wouldn't jump at the opportunity to get a player with as much potential as Appel for virtually nothing.
Furthermore, the Tigers are going to be a poor team in 2018 — that's a foregone conclusion. Sorry to say, they will likely stink in 2019, too. With that in mind, they have little to lose by dedicating a 40-man roster spot to a pitcher with as much upside as Appel. Competition the likes of Victor Alcantara, Warwick Saupold, Chad Bell, Bruce Rondon, Zac Reininger, and Drew VerHagen shouldn't present an issue when clearing a room on the roster.
Finally, there are still avenues that have yet to be explored in trying to get Appel back on track. It is often said that patience is a virtue, and that is apparently a philosophy that his former clubs ascribe to. Neither Houston nor Philadelphia tried him as a reliever. Many a floundering starting pitcher has gotten his career back in order with a move to the bullpen, and Appel's enviable fastball/slider combo would do well in the role. It would also take pressure off his changeup and command, both of which have regressed somewhat over the last few years.
If the Tigers are able to straighten him out, there is much to gain. If they can't, there is little to lose. While it is unlikely that Appel will ever see the future that many envisioned for him, even a far inferior pitcher would be useful. The major league pitching staff is so extraordinarily weak that he could push his way into a role with even the slightest signs of life. There is no reason Detroit shouldn't throw their hat in the ring when it comes time for Mark Appel to join a new team.