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Back in 2012, the Pittsburgh Pirates gambled on drafting Stanford pitcher Mark Appel with the eighth overall pick in the MLB Draft.

That gamble backfired as obviously Appel didn’t sign with the Bucs and went back to Stanford where the Houston Astros snatched him with the No. 1 overall pick the following year.

Appel turned out to be a bust and announced his retirement from baseball on Thursday without ever throwing a big league pitch, becoming just the third No. 1 overall pick ever to never reach the big leagues.

In five seasons of pro ball, Appel never made it above Triple-A and posted a career 5.06 ERA and a 1.519 WHIP, eventually being dealt from Houston to the Philadelphia Phillies.

As for the Pirates, they received a compensation pick for not signing Appel and they drafted Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire in the first round of the 2013 draft.

But was the gamble worth it for the Bucs?

It’s hard to knock the strategy of targeting the moist talented player in the draft, which Appel was at the time.

The problem for the Pirates wasn’t necessarily the fact that they didn’t sign Appel, it was that the rest of that draft was terrible for Neal Huntington.

Of their top 20 selections that season, only Jacob Stallings (seventh round) and Max Moroff (16th) have sniffed the big leagues. No one else in the entire draft class has come close yet.

The strategy was obvious. Try and sign Appel and save money through the rest of the draft. It just didn’t work out well for Huntington.

You will always have to wonder how Appel’s career may have turned out differently had he signed with the Pirates?

At the end of the day, it was a gamble the Pirates probably should have taken at the time, although looking back now it would be nice to have an Addison Russell, Corey Seager or Marcus Stroman, all of which went later in the first round. But you can’t do that with the MLB Draft. It just goes to show you want a crapshoot it can be sometime.

The biggest issue for the Pirates wasn’t taking a risk on Appel. It was swing and missing with the rest of the entire 2012 draft class.

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Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.