Over the offseason, Camden Chat published an article about each member of the Orioles 40-man roster. During the 2022 season, we will update on new arrivals after they make it to the roster.
NOTE: The Orioles designated Sulser for assignment on 10/14/22. He is no longer on the 40-man roster.
How he arrived: Waiver claim from Pirates on 5/14/22, after having been designated for assignment by Pittsburgh 5/12
Who left: Paul Fry DFA 5/14, traded to Diamondbacks 5/18 for minor league pitcher Juan Osorio
Pop quiz, hotshot. A hole opens up in the Orioles starting rotation tomorrow due to an unfortunately-placed comebacker. Orioles GM Mike Elias doesn’t want to call up Grayson Rodriguez or D.L. Hall yet. You can’t scrape together another bullpen game. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?
Outside of Rodriguez and Hall, the Triple-A Norfolk Tides rotation has mostly been in a sorry state. The first replacement starter, Chris Ellis, is out for the year. Kyle Brnovich has already gotten hurt also. Kevin Smith has lost his 40-man roster spot. Zac Lowther and his 9.26 ERA in the minors this season might end up being next. Matt Harvey wasn’t back in the picture yet, and he just got suspended for 60 days besides. Blaine Knight and Cody Sedlock have also made starts and have not done great.
Enter the Orioles latest waiver claim, perhaps. Last week, the Orioles grabbed 28-year-old right-handed pitcher Beau Sulser from the waiver wire, where he’d been placed by the Pittsburgh Pirates. If that last name sounds familiar to you, that’s because it is. Beau is the younger brother of Cole Sulser, who pitched for the Orioles for the last two seasons and was surprisingly traded to Miami less than a week before this season started.
The younger Sulser was drafted out of Dartmouth University, like his brother, in Beau’s case a senior sign in the 10th round in 2017. Since then, he’s been slowly and mostly unremarkably climbing the minor league ladder. Sulser spent the 2021 season at Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis, making 24 starts out of 26 appearances. This was his age 27 season, and he posted a 5.65 ERA and 1.655 WHIP at the level one below the big leagues.
These are not the kinds of numbers that scream out for an MLB future, especially for a guy who at that point was older and not someone where you can dream about his upside, like younger prospects at lower levels who hit a stumbling block. Beau Sulser was Rule 5 draft eligible headed into the 2021 season. No one picked him then, and no one would have picked him last winter if the lockout didn’t cancel that draft. Why would they have?
There is always a chance to make it with a bad team that doesn’t have a whole lot of pitching. The 2021 Orioles proved to be a great example of this. The similarly bad Pirates are not much different. Needing late April pitching, after Sulser made a few decent Triple-A starts to begin this season, they called him up for his big league debut.
Looking solely at Sulser’s ERA, you might wonder why they got rid of him so quickly. He had a 3.72 ERA after four outings, which is still decent even in 2022. His Statcast page has a lot of red on it. That’s usually a good sign for a player. However, Sulser’s also allowed five unearned runs, so his RA9 (runs allowed per nine) is quite bad. So is his walk rate - he walked 13% of the batters he faced in his small sample size, and adding in the hit by pitch column it’s 15.2%.
That is the kind of pitching that is going to tend to have a guy end up on the waiver wire, even on a bad team with a bad pitching staff that’s not expending much effort to win, as the Pirates are. The Orioles, of course, are no great shakes either.
Sulser has been optioned to Norfolk for the time being, where I expect he is just-in-case insurance for as long as the Orioles feel like they need that. The circumstance where he’s needed for a spot start or two could never present itself. He may be one of those guys who arrives by waiver claim and departs by waivers without ever playing a game. It has happened before and will happen again.
If that is the kind of acquisition that the younger Sulser is, then the Sulser brothers may not make it together into the Orioles history books. If Cole was still here, the potential of both being on the team at the same time would be even more interesting. Cole is not still here, of course. Even separately, it would be kind of a neat story for Beau to make it. That may depend on whether any more Orioles pitchers get hurt or severely suck over the next couple of months.
Still to come: Nick Vespi