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2023 Diamondbacks Reviews: #51 Cole Sulser

Not the waiver claim fairytale I would have liked.

MLB: MAR 30 Diamondbacks at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Overview

  • Rating: 2.64
  • 2023 stats: 4 G, 5.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 8.32 FIP, 1.50 WHIP, 1.33 SO/BB, 69 ERA+, also: 5 H, 4R, 2HR.
  • Date of birth: March 12, 1990 (33 years old)
  • 2023 earnings: $572,205 (via Spotrac)
  • 2024 status: Designated on August 1, 2023 and subsequently claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays. Outrighted in November and now a free agent.

Introduction

Logically, I was eager to take this review because I wrote a very extensive piece on the arrival of Cole Sulser to the desert back on November 12, 2022, where some commenters gave him a warm welcome.

I highly recommend (why wouldn’t I?) reading that article if you haven’t yet and are interested in the man’s background, but if you rather pass, I will summarise his career before reaching Phoenix here:

  • Late 2013 draft pick by the Indians
  • Slow rise and dealt to Tampa in 2019.
  • Claimed by the Orioles and works on a new change-up.
  • Becomes a valuable piece in the 2021 Orioles bullpen.
  • Traded to the Marlins in 2022 and hits the IL with diminished velocity.

2023 review

Sulser joins the Diamondbacks in the 2023 off-season after being claimed off waivers from Marlins after a 40-man roster crunch. He agrees on a $850,000 contract with Hazen and avoids arbitration with that. Like we mentioned in our welcoming article:

“So, once again, it is a bit of a project that requires quite some work here. The job for Sulser is to become “perfect” again with the right velocity on both pitches and good location and he will have the entire off-season to get the additional rest for his lat strain and getting back into shape for the 2023 season. If that works out, the D-Backs will have a reliever accustomed to high-leverage situations who does extremely well against left-handed hitters although he was also good against right-handed batters in his 2021 season.”

Cole Sulser does well in Spring Training. He gets into the conversation for a roster spot on Opening Day once relievers get assigned to minor league camp. By the end Spring Training is over, Sulser has a 2.00 ERA in 8 appearances and 9 innings, with 8 strikeouts, keeping batters limited to a .133 batting average. Worth a shot.

Heading right to Dodger stadium for your maiden voyage perhaps isn’t the best start of a Sedona red career. Gallen gets shelled in his first appearance on Opening Day and when Sulser relieves him in the 5th, he gets to know the fiery Dodger bats that day as well.

Entering the 5th inning for Gallen, he immediately gives up a line drive to David Peralta. Will Smith scores, but the inning is over when JD Martinez is thrown out at third. An inning later he walks Vargas and gives up a homerun to James Outman in the following at bat.

The following day it is yet another blow-out loss for the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium, this day a Madison Bumgarner start, and after a clean 6th, Sulser gives up a bomb to JD Martinez in the 7th.

Two days later another tough outing for Sulser, allowing two walks in a game against the Padres, although this time he doesn’t need to bleed.

Sulser struggles heavily with his command, with just half of his pitches entering for a strike, and the opponents swinging for the fences on his fastball. Something is wrong and apparently it is his shoulder, because on April 6 he hits the IL and a couple of days later is moved to the 60-day IL.

Sulser doesn’t return from the IL until early July, when he is sent on a rehab assignment in the ACL. Between July 4 and 25 he pitches just 5.2 innings, the Diamondbacks clearly aren’t convinced that he has completely healed. He gives up 5 runs in the ACL and PCL before the Diamondbacks try an all or nothing after Tommy Henry is moved to the IL. Sulser pitches the 9th inning in a lost game against the Mariners and gives up once again a lot of hard hits and a run. The Diamondbacks have seen enough and designate him for assignment the following day.

2024 outlook

After getting designated for assignment, the Tampa Bay Rays, a former team, pick Sulser up on a waiver claim. He finishes the season there in Durham and is outrighted early November. Sulser chooses free agency.

Sulser’s struggles of diminished control continued in 2023. He regained velocity and his change-up was good, but hitters waited and feasted on his fastball. At 33 years of age and with now a lat strain and a right shoulder strain injury behind him, you’d wonder if the control that made him successful in 2021 will return.

There will be a team somewhere that will offer him a minor league contract just to find out.