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Your Random D-Back: Sam Demel

Do not fear failure.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Demel The Horned Frog

Sam Demel was one of the bigger names on the 2007 Texas Christian University roster that also saw Jake Arrieta and Matt Carpenter taking the field. While Carpenter would become a 13th round pick in 2009, Sam Demel would be off the board earlier than Jake Arrieta, in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft, although Arrieta would get a much bigger bonus and become an overslot signing for the Orioles in the 5th round.

Demel wasn’t necessarily valued as a big impact prospect in Oakland, when the A’s took him in that 2007 draft. In 2007 the Oakland A’s drafted mainly college guys in those first rounds, obviously with the expectation that they could move up quickly through the system and Demel certainly made for an interesting one: as a freshman and sophomore he mostly worked as a starter with good strikeout rates, but in 2006 he impresses as a closer in the Cape Cod league, picking up 12 saves in 26 innings, and in 2007 works exclusively as the team’s closer, allowing just 1 homerun over almost 50 innings of work, paired with an excellent 4.18 SO/BB ratio.

“Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would have spent two or three years before realizing I’m going to be a back-of-the-bullpen guy. I had a lot more fun figuring it out here.” - Sam Demel in a TCU article in 2007 on not signing with the Texas Rangers out of high school in 2004 and transferring into a reliever at TCU

Demel The Snake

Demel is dropped in 2007 at Low A Kane County Cougars, back then an Oakland minor league affiliate, and posts good numbers. He even gets a taste of High A, but struggles heavily with his control. But he hardly gives up a homerun and his mid-90s fastball, a very good changeup and slider help him to rise quickly, although some concerns cannot be shaken off easily.

“His control is the biggest thing holding him back.” - FanGraphs in 2009 on Sam Demel

After struggling with his control again in 2009, Demel looks to have turned things around again in 2010 in Triple A. He is knocking on the door, but instead of making his MLB debut with Oakland he is included in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks: the D-Backs and A’s inaugurate the mid-season trade period by exchanging Sam Demel for Conor Jackson.

An excellent FanGraphs article on that trade explains that the trade makes sense on both sides. The Diamondbacks’ bullpen is limping to an MLB worst 5.78 ERA and the club hopes Sam Demel can provide some more stability to it.

“Demel will immediately join the major league team, and they hope he can somewhat replicate the success he showed this year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Always a relatively high-strikeout and low-homer reliever, Demel has greatly improved his walk rate this season, 2.8 per nine compared to his minor league average of 4.5 per nine. While he might not become a striking success, he should represent an improvement for Arizona.” - FanGraphs in 2010 on Sam Demel after the Jackson-Demel trade

Demel is immediately added to the Diamondbacks roster and makes his debut a day after the trade, achieving a scoreless inning in a 6-2 loss at Fenway.

In 2010 the right-handed reliever finally makes 37 appearances for a terrible Diamondbacks team. He pitches mostly in low-leverage situations and although his 5.35 ERA is nothing to write home about, his 4.11 FIP and 2.9 BB/9 are amongst the better marks on the team. The AZSnakePit rewards him with a nomination for rookie of the year.

So there is hope the Texas native can take a next step in the 2011 season and contribute in a positive way to a team that would eventually finish that season in 1st place. That certainly is the expectation of the front office as Sam Demel is rewarded a spot on the team’s opening day roster. He pitches well, albeit still in middle relief and rather low-leverage settings. But a 1.72 ERA by the end of May after 20 games is definitely more than what most of us would have hoped for. On May 24, however, Sam Demel hits the 15-day IL with right shoulder tendonitis.

Demel returns from the IL more than a month later, to some delight on the AZSnakePit, but as his FIP was already suggesting, his performances were up to regression. Velocity is down, strikeouts decrease, walks increase...after a month and a 6.75 ERA Demel is optioned to Reno to work on his control again. In 2012 Demel starts the season in Reno as well. The reliever puts up good numbers in Triple A, but only gets one single reappearance in the MLB, taking the loss. The team puts Demel on waivers by the season’s end and he is claimed by the Houston Astros. There he doesn’t make it out of spring training and the reliever lands with the New York Yankees. In 2014 he goes for a final chance with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but without any succes and he ends up needing Tommy John surgery. After that he decides to call it quits.

Demel The Businessman

After hanging up the cleats as a professional baseball player he moved back to Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, who he got to know during their time as students at TCU. Both do not only partner up in their personal life, but also in their professional life and take up a job in real estate. Demel can definitely be called an entrepreneur because not only does he have several business and jobs in real estate, he also owns a coffeeshop and wine shop with his wife in their home town, applying to his professional career the lessons he learned from baseball.

“The one thing that [baseball] really taught me was not to fear failure, and more to learn from it. Baseball is a sport where you are going to fail. Going into a small business, it’s the same thing: there are going to be failures, and there are going to be things that seem like the end of the world or seem like everything is crumbling around you. And at the end of the day, it’s just something to learn from.” - Sam Demel in a 2020 interview for a local magazine after opening their wine bar