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2023 Diamondbacks Reviews: #20 Kyle Nelson

Kyle Nelson pitched about as well as you could in the first half, but he struggled in the second half and ultimately was relegated to mop-up duty to end the year.

World Series - Texas Rangers v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four Photo by Harry How/Getty Images


  • Rating: 5.48
  • 2023 stats: 68 G, 56 IP, 4.18 ERA, 4.45 FIP, 1.304 WHIP, 4.79 SO/BB, 105 ERA+
  • Date of birth: July 8th, 1996 (34 years old)

2023 earnings: Pre-Arbitration

  • 2024 status: 26-man roster

Introduction & 2023 review

Kyle Nelson’s D-backs tenure isn’t very long as this is only his second full season in the bullpen after being claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians late after the disastrous 2021 season. That futility allowed the D-backs their choice on the waiver wire that offseason and finding a viable bullpen piece in Nelson is a win for Mike Hazen.

A 15th-round selection in the MLB Draft, Kyle did nothing but strike hitters out throughout his time in the minors. But after a lost minor league season in 2020 and a poor debut that same year, Nelson was on the outside looking in as he struggled in 2021, ultimately being designated for assignment and picked up by the D-backs.

He cemented himself in 2022 as a legitimate option out of the bullpen, with a 2.19 ERA across 37 innings which solidified his spot in the bullpen in 2023, where he saw most of his time pitching in the middle innings and performed admirably to start the first half of the year - with a 2.60 ERA in 34.2 innings while striking out 12.2 batters/9.

After the break however, his season unraveled. His ERA jumped to 6.75 across 21 second-half innings and his strikeout rate fell to 8.4 K/9. He allowed more hard-hit balls and gave up multiple runs in 5 of his 28 games, losing the trust of Torey Lovullo and becoming just a mop-up reliever instead of a normal option.

That lack of trust continued into the postseason as Kyle made it into mop-up duty, allowing 4 runs in 5 innings with 4 of those games as losses.

2024 outlook

Despite the struggles to finish the year, his baseball savant page shows a usable pitcher - especially when you consider how much he’ll be owed in 2024 as a league minimum player.

However, with a team looking to return to the World Series in 2024 and multiple reliever prospects pounding at the MLB door, his 40-man and active roster spot will be extremely valuable for a bullpen looking for explosive arms. Despite this, he strikes out batters way more than you’d expect as a soft-throwing, side-armed lefty and while you may not trust him in the big moments of a game, he can still get lefties out and his performance against righties isn’t that bad. Expect Kyle Nelson to remain a bullpen option in 2024, but with a shorter leash that could have run its course as the homers continue to come.