It was so good to get back into the groove of writing about Inception last week! Admittedly after a long layoff it is really hard to find the motivation to sit down and get back into the swing of things. But it was so much fun!
So this week I decided to come back with a very familiar name, one that elicits groans from many Astros fans and snickers from just about everyone else (especially Cubs fans): Mark Appel. For the those of you who don’t know why, the Astros chose Appel over Kris Bryant in the 2013 MLB Draft. That’s really all that needs to be said about that.
Even with all the controversy surrounding that pick and Appel’s inability to live up to projections, he is still a player that a lot of people root for, myself included. In fact, for a while, I was intending on chasing down the whole rainbow of Appel Inception cards but abandoned pursuit because chasing the base set of Inception alone is challenging enough!
I think the reasons so many people still hold out hope for Appel is simple: he has been open and honest about the struggles on his journey. He hasn’t made perfect decisions nor has he had a smile on his face the whole time, but he has never given up and that resonates with a lot of people.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the facts and figures with Appel today. If you follow baseball even a little more than the average fan, you know that Appel has been statistically a disappointment. To this point in his career, he has yet to make an appearance in the Big Leagues, and here are his Minor League stats:
Wins: 24 L:17 ERA: 5.04 G:76 CG:2 Batting AVG Against: .276 WHIP: 1.48
What makes these pedestrian numbers so frustrating? Appel “owns the career school record [at Standord] for strikeouts (372), ranks fourth in innings pitched (377.2) and sixth in wins (28).” And during his senio year, he went “10-4 with four complete games and a 2.12 ERA (25ER/106.1IP)...recorded 130 strikeouts in his 106.1 innings pitched and allowed just a .203 opponent's batting average.” I was actually able to watch one of those four losses in person, as he opened the season with a loss to my Rice Owls in Houston!
Overall, Appel was obviously a top notch prospect with “Big League Pitcher" written all over him by scouts and fans alike. He had been drafted out of high school, then again after his junior year (8th overall by the PIrates) before coming back for his senior year. And then the Astros took him first overall.
- A Baseball America report in the wake of the selection praised Appel’s “ideal” mechanics and “bulldog” mentality. He could dial his fastball up into the high 90s, and complemented it with a nasty slider that could generate whiffs and a promising changeup to keep opponents off balance. With a lean 6’5″ build ideal for starting and an advanced arsenal of potential plus pitches, Appel appeared the rare high-ceiling, high-floor pitching prospect, a polished Pac-12 product with frontline potential.
And the GM of the Astros, Jeff Lunhow, was quoted as calling Appel “a future ace” after taking him the draft. Unfortunately for Appel and his fans, all of the accolades and potential has just not panned out.
Yet, I still root for him. Why? I am going to post some quotes from Appel’s blog, specifically what he wrote in a letter to Astros fans after being traded to the Phillies. I think they illustrate what kind of person he is and exactly why I will ALWAYS root for him:
- “That’s a bunch of stuff that I’ve learned over the last few years, going through this process: Struggling — struggling a lot — then getting traded, and then having surgery, it seems like every year it’s something different. But I’m learning through it all, and I trust that the Lord’s making me a better person and a better teammate and a better player for the organization.”
- [One lesson I learned] is how little you can control life…sometimes we get what we want and sometimes we don’t. I believe how you react defines your character. Lesson number two has to do with expectation…If I had a definitive answer, I would tell you. But I don’t. Life doesn’t always go as expected, and that is okay. However, I think I have learned a little bit dealing with expectation over my time being a professional ballplayer. Keeping things in perspective is a huge first step…The second step is simply to have fun. Don’t take yourself seriously. Take your craft seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. There is a difference in attitude, not work ethic.
- [The final lesson] is to be thankful. Appreciate what God has given you and the people He has placed in your life to make your experience uniquely yours.
On June 19th, Appel threw 8.1 scoreless innings for the Phillies AAA team (the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs). Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come for him!
Look of the Card:
Probably the first thing any of you might notice is that this is currently my only /50 Pink Parallel. I also had the /99 Gold Parallel but let that go when I decided I was not going to attempt the rainbow of this card. I am not a huge fan of the Pink Parallel in general just because I think it looks awkward as a whole, but it’s fun to have one because it definitely stands out!
Just a couple of notes about today’s card. I’m going to get all artsy for this first comment: I feel like the photo that was chosen of Appel is symbolic of his career. The way his body is contorted looks uncomfortable - even though it’s all a part of a motion that propelled him to being the number one overall pick - it does not have the sense of fluidity of any of the other pitchers I have profiled thus far. And the look on his face seems to hold a lot of tension, it harkens back to the sense that he said he was always trying too hard to live up to the expectations of being the top overall pick. He is focused and determined, but also seems to be straining very hard to stay that way. Appels work ethic has never been in doubt, so really this all seems emblematic of the mental struggles he has faced since the day he was drafted.
The other note is about the signature. There are a number of features about his signature that I really like. The first is the large M and A at the beginning of his first and last name. In general it is a look that I think looks very classy. The flourish of the line under the name that curves back around to the bottom of the A really creates a sense of balance and care by the signee.
And then there is the verse of scripture. I am sure that any time an athlete or celebrity signs their autograph with a Bible verse they are met with eye rolls or skepticism. It can seem very cliche or disingenuous for sure. The thing that I like about Appel is that he signed all of his Inception cards with a verse and used multiple verses; instead of just throwing out John 3:16 or the same verse as sort of a “calling card,” I count at least seven different verses on the cards listed on ebay. To me that says he has invested some time in knowing and understanding what he is doing, and I will always appreciate that kind of thoughtfulness and care in an athlete.
Here is the basic information about the market value of the card as seen on ebay and COMC.com.
For eBay, there are five copies of the base version listed. They range in asking price from $6.25 to 19.99. My favorite listing has “Super Prospect! Astros” in the title; I definitely L-O-Led when I saw that. It was definitely one of those moments where I wonder just how much attention some of these sellers pay to the product they are listing. I realize there are tons of sellers out there with way too much product to give each listing individual attention, but that doesn’t I won’t laugh at something ridiculous like this. And as for the parallels, you can get the /10 red parallel for only $179.99 or $149.99 right now!
In the last three months on eBay, only 4 copies of the base version have sold, ranging from $2.30-$6.25. One copy of the /75 blue parallel did sell for $5.99. There was an auction that ended recently for the /25 Silver Signings Inception; the starting bid was only $5.27 but it had a reserve. I would have liked to bid on the card but with no idea what the reserve was, there was no point.
On COMC.com, there are currently 17 copies of the base version available for purchase, with the cheapest going for $6.25 and the most expensive being $34.75. Since the card first came available on the site, there have been 32 sales, but I do not have access to the selling point prices as my History Points all expired on the site!
That’s it for this week! Hopefully you liked the slightly different tone of the profile! Going to try something a little different next week too! Thanks!
As always, thanks a lot to Gibson Sports Memorabilia for their continued sponsorship! Please check out their inventory at: