According to The Athletic's Matt Gelb, Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Connor Brogdon has been placed on the COVID IL, and he will be out of commission for an unknown number of games.
It is disappointing news for the Phillies, who had been relying quite heavily on Brogdon as one of their few reliable, high-leverage relievers. However, while this is unwelcome news for Philadelphia's bullpen, there is at least one member of the organization for whom this news was anything but disappointing.
Mark Appel was first drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2009. He did not sign, choosing instead to attend college at Stanford. He was then drafted again at eighth overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, but opted not to sign yet again, betting on himself to maximize his draft stock.
Following his graduation in 2013, Appel was drafted for a final time, this time by the Houston Astros. He was taken first overall in the draft, one pick ahead of Kris Bryant and fifteen picks ahead of Phillies first-rounder J.P. Crawford.
Over the next three seasons, Appel's prospect stock slowly fell. He struggled to keep runs off the board at every level and questions began to arise about his major league future.
In December 2015, he was dealt to Philadelphia as part of the Ken Giles trade, but the former first overall pick was not even the centerpiece of the deal for the Phillies – no, that would be 23-year-old right-hander Vince Velasquez.
Appel continued to struggle in Philadelphia's minor league system for two more years, and his chances of making the big league club dwindled. Eventually, after a particularly difficult 2017 season, Appel made the difficult decision to hang up his cleats, announcing he would be taking an "indefinite break" from baseball in February 2018.
Three years passed before that indefinite break finally came to an end. Appel decided to return to the sport he loved, and was welcomed back to the Phillies organization. He pitched in 23 games in 2021 with a 6.06 ERA, hardly an impressive return, but statistics really weren't the point anymore. Returning to professional baseball at 29 years old after so much time off was an incredible accomplishment in and of itself.
But the 2013 first overall pick wasn't done with incredible accomplishments just yet. In 2022, Appel became a full-time reliever for the first time in his professional career and immediately excelled in the role. In 28 innings at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, he put up a 1.61 ERA.
As the year went on, more and more people began to notice how well Appel was pitching. More and more people began to realize he was pitching his way back into consideration for a big league role. More and more people began to talk about when – not if – Appel would finally get the call.
Then, on Friday June 24, 2022, the report came out. Appel was being called up to make his major league debut at 30 years old. He would be joining the Phillies in San Diego this weekend.
It's hard to know how long Brogdon will be away from the team, and it's equally hard to say how many opportunities Rob Thomson will afford Appel. Nevertheless, no matter what happens from here on out, this moment marks a tremendous achievement for the right-hander from Danville, California.
Is this the pinnacle of an incredible journey for Appel, or is it merely the beginning? Only time will tell. Either way, it makes for a pretty wonderful story.
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