Another chapter began in the saga of Mark Appel on Monday.
An hour and 57 minutes ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to 40-man roster, the Phillies announced that the 26-year-old right-hander has been designated for assignment.
The designation means that the once-vaunted hurler will be available to other clubs through a waiver claim or trade, or that Philadelphia must release him. If the Phillies are able to hold onto him over the next several weeks, he'll be available in the Dec. 14 Rule 5 Draft.
As a high-profile amateur, Appel was drafted three times.
In 2009, he elected Stanford University over the Tigers, who picked him out of a California high school in the 15th round. In 2012, when he won the College Baseball Foundation's National Pitcher of the Year Award as a junior with the Cardinal, he was projected by many to be the top pick. He reportedly made it clear that he would refuse a $6 million signing bonus from the Astros, who instead selected Carlos Correa. The Pirates picked him eighth overall, but he did not sign and returned to Stanford for senior year. In 2013, the Astros took him No. 1 overall, and the Houston-born hurler agreed to a deal with a $6.35 million bonus.
Although he's had brilliant stretches, Appel's professional career has been beset by misfortune and injuries. In Jan. 2014, he underwent emergency surgery to have his appendix removed. By the end of the first month of his first full season, Houston reassigned him from the Class A Advanced California League to extended spring training after he put up a 6.44 ERA over 13 innings across four starts.
He moved up to Double-A in July and pitched well (1-2, 3.69 ERA) through the end of that season, and he dominated in the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League (2.61 ERA over seven starts). But the next year, the 6-foot-5 righty posted a 4.37 ERA over 25 starts between the top two levels of the Minors, and on Dec. 12, 2015, the Astros shipped him and five other pitchers to the Phillies in exchange for closer Ken Giles and shortstop prospect Jonathan Arauz.
In 2016, Appel threw in just eight games before being shut down with a right shoulder injury. While he was rehabbing, he experienced elbow pain, and he required season-ending surgery to remove a bone spur. Still, he was Philadelphia's No. 10 prospect at year's end. In his return to action in 2017, he went 5-4 with a 5.14 ERA over 17 starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
The Phillies also designated for assignment Alberto Tirado, who posted a 3.69 ERA over 15 games -- 12 starts -- at the Class A Advanced level this year but struggled out of the bullpen in Double-A ball, and outrighted their No. 18 prospect, Elniery Garcia. Garcia, a 22-year-old left-hander, missed 80 games this season for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.