Tag Archives: Carson Fulmer

Can Carson Fulmer Fit with the 2018 Sox?

The South Side hype train finally saw a bounty of young, promising talent arrive to their ever-so-scant farm system in 2017. Top prospect Eloy Jimenez, as well as flame-throwing pitcher Michael Kopech, and Reynaldo Lopez were all added to the fold, just to name a few.

With all the rumblings it’s easy to forget that before the banner offseason, there was a promising, young right handed pitcher out of Vanderbilt named Carson Fulmer who was drafted by the White Sox in 2015.

With a powerful three-pitch repertoire, Fulmer was one of the most recognized college pitchers in that draft and was selected eighth overall in a year that was devoid of quality arms. He had a fastball that touched 95 and attended an alma mater known for producing pitchers such as David Price and Sonny Gray.

For the White Sox, Fulmer is every as intriguing as he is frustrating. Though he stands just six-feet tall, he possesses a strong lower build — a feature of framework that usually lends itself to durability in a starting pitchers who throw with the velocity Fulmer does.

But, as time wore on in the minor leagues, it became evident that as plus as his stuff played in the way of strikeouts, Fulmer had mechanical issues that contributed to elevated walk rates and an extremely high flyball rate. Last year, over 23 innings pitched with the White Sox, Fulmer had a nearly 55 percent flyball rate. While only 11 percent of those turned up in the seats at Guaranteed Rate Field that, coupled with being prone to walk batters, are not qualities that bode well for an aspiring starting pitcher.

Just a year ago, Fulmer was ranked the No. 3 White Sox prospect by Baseball America. But with the organization’s recent influx of top-tier talent, Fulmer’s path to becoming a front end or even mid-rotation starter within the organization has been shadowed by a newer, younger, crop that’s arrived what feels like overnight.

So the question then becomes, what is Fulmer’s future with the White Sox now? The visions of his future role within the organization from a long term standpoint have certainly shifted, but not simply because of the shift in prospect depth. Fulmer has shown his cards on a major league mound for nearly 40 innings now.

Fulmer’s flyball rate was extremely high last season and he also lowered his groundball rate significantly from 44 percent in 2016 to just 28 percent in 2017. Perhaps that was a fluky baseball thing, considering the rate at which Major League Baseball saw fly balls increase last season. It’s still promising, whatever the cause could be for the spike in flyball rate, that not many of Fulmer’s fly balls left the yard. However, heavy flyball pitchers with known control issues are somewhat a recipe for disaster as starters.

Which leads one to the idea that, as many had suggested at the start of Fulmer’s career, perhaps he is best relegated to a strong and efficient role in the bullpen. His repertoire which saw increased usage in his cutter and changeup in the majors, while he also utilized his strong four-seam fastball. That combination makes for a strong arsenal for a relief pitcher to possess, especially when it is accompanied with good velocity (his cutter averaged 89 mph in 2017 while his fastball touched 96 mph) and a strikeout per nine of 7.33. All these things will play up well in a bullpen situation.

After depleting their relief staff through a series of trades in 2017, the White Sox surely need to fill those gaps. The White Sox also recently non-tendered Jake Putnam and Jake Petricka, making their bullpen staff even thinner. Fulmer would be a interesting solution to the White Sox’s immediate need.

While Fulmer may not retain much value in a trade as opposed to the value he can provide staying in the White Sox organization, it’s crucial that the White Sox remain vigilant in their pursuit to work on perfecting Fulmer’s development. Mechanical issues, getting him to stay tall on the mound, and keep his pitches in the zone while producing more ground ball contact will help the organization really understand what role he is suited best for in the coming years with the White Sox. Fulmer’s development is not over, and neither the importance he brings to the organization, it’s simply being reassigned.

Eloy Jimenez Makes First Appearance at Guaranteed Rate Field

“I truly believe that I can be playing here right now,” Eloy Jimenez told the media on Tuesday during his formal introduction to the park he will soon call home. “In my mind, I’m ready. But I have to wait.”

Jimenez, 20, was the headliner in the deal that sent left-hander Jose Quintana to the Cubs on July, 14th. Since moving to the White Sox’s Double-A Birmingham affiliate, Jimenez has hit an impressive .353/.397/.559 with 16 strikeouts in 68 at bats.

Jimenez’s demeanor is that of someone well beyond his years, and his skill set is one that demands attention as he continues to dominant throughout the minors. But Jimenez remains very humble and self aware. When asked if he he’ll be a star, his answer is “Of course.”

“That’s why I’m working hard every day.” Jimenez said. “I want to be the best player on the field every time I go out. That’s why I’m working hard. I don’t want to be just another player. I want to be the best player.”

Manager Rick Renteria has been sufficiently impressed with what he’s seen from Jimenez this season. “We’ve seen quite a bit of [him], obviously he’s a young man with some power,” Renteria said. “He can play the field and on top of that we’ve watched some of the interviews he’s given, he’s a pretty bright young man. It’s going to be nice to see these guys as they continue to move forward in their careers with hopes that they’re going to be a part of a tremendous future here in Chicago.”

It was easy to see a picture in which Jimenez is a mainstay on the South Side as he shook hands with his future teammates, watched batting practice alongside his future hitting coach, Todd Steverson, and enjoyed a warm welcome from some of his future teammates.

“[Carson] Fulmer gave me a very good welcome,” Jimenez said. “He made me feel like I’m part of the roster here. I also met with the manager, the coaches. I’m excited. They all treat me in a good way and I’m just very, very excited.”

Jimenez knows his work isn’t done though. He may feel ready to be slotted into the lineup during his time in Chicago on Tuesday but he still has improvements to make before he can take the big stage.

“I have to improve all around my game,” Jimenez said. “I don’t think it’s any specific area that I have to improve more than another. I have to keep learning about the game because every day you can learn something different. That’s the way I like to approach my day on a daily basis. That’s the way I like to think; work hard every day and try to learn and improve every day in all the aspects of the game.”

Part of that improvement will begin this offseason, as Jimenez said he plans to take part in the Dominican Winter League. As for Renteria, he thinks that the organization will need to sit down with Jimenez and help him make that decision when the time comes.

“Everybody gains what they want to get out of it, some people go with it willingly, some people go not wanting to really go and don’t get a whole lot,” Renteria said. “If he decides and the organization decides that that’s something that he should do, we will talk about it. If he wants to do it obviously everybody has to be on board with something like that.”

“It kind of helps people to see the game from a different perspective,” Renteria said of Winter League baseball. “Because you have some of the best of the best going out there competing and performing, but I think that we will come to some conclusion about what we want him to do.”

As old familiar faces begin to pack their bags in the White Sox clubhouse and new ones take their place, Manager Rick Renteria can’t help but think about the future on the South Side.

“A couple days ago, I’ll be honest I sat back and started writing all the names on the board of the players we have within the system, the kids that have been within the system, and the kids we’ve acquired,” Renteria said. “You start looking and you think we’re poised to hopefully help these guys get better and make them a part of the Chicago White Sox at the major league level. The names that are on that board are nice to see.”

Holland Released–

The White Sox announced the release of veteran left-handed starter Derek Holland on Tuesday. Holland, 30, had a rather turbulent year with the White Sox, pitching to a 6.20 ERA with a 6.42 FIP. He allowed 31 home runs in 135 innings.

“With the young men coming up, it was going to cut into his usage,” Renteria said of the move. “That’s what it was. He was awesome when we spoke to him last night, he was very grateful for the opportunity. He was very happy to get through the season healthy. He was disappointed he wasn’t able to do more, he really wanted to come in and perform better but I think with the guys we’ve brought up are going to be the ones that are going to taking those innings.”

“Derek was a great teammate,” pitcher James Shields said. “All of the guys liked him around here. He went out there every five days and pitched with his heart. The guy cared about baseball and is a tremendous human being. It’s always tough to lose a guy like that.”

The White Sox promoted left-handed reliever Jace Fry to take Holland’s roster spot. Fry, who has undergone Tommy John surgery twice, will making his first appearance in the majors on Tuesday. He spent the entire 2017 season with Double-A Birmingham and pitched 45 innings with 52 strikeouts while posting a 2.78 ERA.

And Soon, Lopez?

The 2017 trade deadline was the end of the first chapter of the White Sox rebuild. While there may be an addendum or two with potential sign-and-trades in the year or two to come, the means to acquire young talent are, mostly, spent. The next chapter will be spent figuring out which young talent will make it in the MLB. While Yoan Moncada seems destined to have the staring role in that part of the drama, there will be others. The next could be Reynaldo Lopez.

While guest speaking at Boston’s Saber Seminar over the weekend, GM Rick Hahn teased that Friday could be the debut of Lopez. He seems ready. While Lucas Giolito may have more prospect shine and Carson Fulmer has had big league experience with the White Sox, Lopez has been the most consistent starter for the AAA Charlotte Knights this season. That’s not to say Lopez is without flash. Over his last five starts, he’s thrown 30 innings, struck out 38 and held a 2.38 ERA. He was voted as the White Sox Minor League Player of the Month in July and has impressed both teammates and coaches with his cool, collected character.

When Lopez makes his White Sox debut, he’ll be pitching for his second MLB team. Lopez worked 44 innings for the Washington Nationals last season. He started six games and relieved in one while also throwing two innings of relief in Game Four of the NLDS against the Dodgers. 2016 saw Lopez miss a fair amount of bats (42 strikeouts in the regular season) but miss a the strike zone too often, as well (22 walks). Lack of command has been, as it is with so many young pitchers, the developmental issue for Lopez thus far. While nothing is a bigger tell than the GM of a team telling fans to buy tickets for Friday night against the Royals, Lopez’ walk numbers since the start of June do a fair amount of talking. He’s given a free pass to 22 hitters over 11 starts (62 innings). Just for the sake of quick review–Lopez walked 4.5 per nine in his 44 innings with the Nationals last season. In his first two months at AAA this year, he walked 5.65 per nine. Since the start of June, the rate has dropped to 3.19 per nine.

Reynaldo Lopez may well have little left to prove at AAA.

Should the White Sox bring him up for Friday’s start, it’s possible he could get 10 or even 12 starts in the remainder of the season. Last season, he threw 155.1 total innings across three levels (AA, AAA and MLB). He’s logged 121 innings so far this season so, when Hahn announces the move, it’s fair to wonder wether an innings cap will be thrown on top of Lopez’ new White Sox lid; the team a has preached patience with their new horde of top-tier talent.

Another question asked will be about how the rest of the rotation will change. With Mike Pelfrey, Derek Holland and James Shields all struggling to get out of the fifth innings on a regular basis, one wonders whether simply adding a sixth man (Lopez) into the rotation might just be easiest on everyone. It’d space out long relief work for a beleaguered bullpen and help Lopez ease into his first go in the Sox rotation.

Either way, listen to Rick Hahn. Maybe buy tickets for Friday night.

Carson Fulmer named White Sox Starter for Cactus League Opener

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper had been keeping his pitching assignments close to the vest during the the early part of Spring Training. News broke Thursday night that Fulmer would be the starter as the White Sox opened the Cactus League Season against the Dodgers and it was confirmed Friday morning. Fulmer, who’s 2016 MLB debut out of the bullpen did not yield great results (11.2 IP over eight games with an 8.49 ERA) is eager to get things going again in 2017–this time in the rotation.

Last Spring, Fulmer was given a marquee start (inasmuch as any Cactus League start can really be “marquee”) in a night game against the Dodgers. He was pushed, aggressively and with purpose, throughout spring and into the season. That culminated with his promotion into the Sox bullpen in mid July.

“Last year was a year that I needed,” Fulmer said. “In baseball you’re going to face a lot of adversity and I feel like that’s what I did. I learned from those mistakes and I was able to work with some guys in our organization that got me turning up. I’m really comfortable right now and I’m looking forward to staying there.”

Fulmer wants the challenge. As the top guy on a heralded Vanderbilt pitching staff in college, he’s used to having expectations put on him. He’s also used to meeting or exceeding those expectations. One key to rising to the challenge for Fulmer has been creating an angle on his stuff.

“I think the difference between forcing weak contact and getting hit hard is the angle on your fastball and other pitches,” Fulmer said. “I think that for me, being a smaller guy, it’s easier for me to be flat. I think [the coaching staff] has really put an emphasis on keeping me tall and working down in the zone with the angle.”

At it’s best, Fulmer’s stuff has never been a problem. His fastball has plenty of life and, when he’s on, his curveball can be used as a wipeout pitch or a strike-getter. Control, however, seemed to escape him during his stint in the Majors in 2016. If Fulmer forces his way into the rotation this season, it will be because he’s learned to harness the stuff with more consistent control.


Ricky Renteria, Todd Frazier and the latest from White Sox Spring Training

White Sox manager Ricky Renteria got the press up to speed on how his camp is going and the status of third baseman Todd Frazier. While a strained said doesn’t seem to be a cause for alarm, Renteria stressed slowing Frazier down some and erring on the side of caution.

Frazier said his injury is in the oblique area and something he’s felt before. While he’s not too worried at present, he knows oblique strains can cost a significant amount of time. If you’re going to get hurt, do it early in Spring–there’s plenty of time to rest up.

So, while Frazier rests up and is day to day, the every day of Spring Training marches on. The White Sox haven’t yet announced their starting pitcher for the Cactus League Opener on February 25th against the Dodgers but, with Jose Quintana working to throw in the World Baseball Classic and Carlos Rodon on a very different spring diet than the rest of the starters, a good guess would be one of the younger guys with just a bit of big league experience. Carson Fulmer threw a live BP on Monday so perhaps the schedule works out that he takes the ball to open Spring for the White Sox.

Just a guess.

Saturday’s White Sox Weekly will be jam packed with interviews from Michael Kopech, Zach Putnam and GM Rick Hahn so make sure to tune in.

September and the Call-Ups

The White Sox announced Tuesday that they’ve completed their September call-up plan. Added to the roster were outfielder Jason Coats, utility man Leury Garcia and reliever Blake Smith. Coats and Garcia have been seen in these parts before while Smith is on the first big league roster of his career at age 28 after moving from the outfield to the mound in the 2013 season.

With the rosters completed, I figured it’d be a good time to start a series of season wrap up pieces. We’ll do it slowly–it’s baseball after all–and we’ll do it by position.

Leading off the series is the every-sexy Organizational Depth! Before I got into a specific position, I wanted to address some of the depth we’ve seen deep in the system and even some we’ve seen hit the major leagues this year. We’ll hit some of these players once we get to individual positions but I needed space to talk a bit about:

Zach Burdi – The flame-throwing 2016 first round draft pick was not one of the call-ups to the White Sox for the last month of the season. Based on talent alone, he absolutely could have been. Burdi cruised through four levels in his first professional season and threw 38 innings. He struck out 51 hitters. A triple-digit fastball keeps hitters on their heels while command of a hard slider makes him fairly devastating. In a conversation on White Sox Weekly, White Sox scouting director, Nick Hosteler, said Burdi’s change-up, while a work-in-progress, shows signs of becoming plus-pitch. That kind of mix could get Burdi a look at being a starter eventually, but for the immediate future, the brightest piece of the Sox future rests with:

Carson Fulmer – Who’s also not coming up to make a much-anticipated start at the big league level in 2016. Fulmer’s year was most definitely a mixed bag. He was shelled in some outings. He was un-hittable in some. He couldn’t find the plate in others. I think Fulmer’s stuff plays at the major league level. Bouts of wildness seemed to attack him at times and whether that’s attributable to his high-engery, high-effort delivery or another mechanical flaw, the White Sox think they’ve got a handle on Fulmer and think they’ll be able to tame him. For Fulmer’s part, he’s a guy who’s more than willing and able to learn. He’s seems to be the kind of prospect who’s willing to adapt and grow while still walking out to the mound confident he can compete. It’s still fair to wonder whether Fulmer’s future rests in the rotation or the bullpen but the White Sox are doing the right things seeing if he can stick as a starter.

Zack Collins and Alec Hansen – Are both very much out on the horizon for the White Sox but there’s every reason for expectation. Collins mashed through two levels (rookie league and advanced A ball) though the vast majority of his work (36 games and 120 at bats) came at Winston-Salem. What excites me most about Collins is his plate discipline. The guy knows how to take a walk and, so far, seems to know what he can and can’t hit. That kind of approach, mixed with power from the left side, is enough to get excited about. As I’ve not seen it, I won’t presume to have an opinion on his work behind the plate but as a general philosophy, when a guy can hit like he can, you play him in a position until he fails. Hansen, meanwhile, could be the most intriguing pick the White Sox made in 2016. In 12 starts, Hansen struck out 81 hitters in 54.2 innings. Sure, it could simply be an instance of and advanced college pitcher facing young, inexperience bats. The Sox however, identified Hansen as a guy who was working through mechanical issues during his final season at Oklahoma. The team believes they’ve fixed those issues and the results seem to prove it.

That’s some of the high-end depth in the White Sox system. We’ll get deeper into prospects as we run the series through it’s course. Next up, we’ll look at the catchers.

With Rodon to DL, Sox need a spot start

White Sox starter Carlos Rodon will need a trip to the 15-day disabled list after slipping on the dugout steps and spraining his pitching wrist. While it’s not the best of circumstances for a team to lose a starter, especially to something so freakish as a slip and fall, the All Star break helps with the timing and could mean that the White Sox need only use a spot starter twice–perhaps even once–while Rodon rests up.

It’s not been smooth trip through for Rodon through the first half of his sophomore season. There have been bumps in the road and they have been sizable. I still like the ability and the potential quite a bit, however. Not all pitchers are Chris Sale. They don’t just arrive at the Big League level and dominate the way Sale, who’s now a five-time All Star, did when moved into the rotation. Rodon, particularly because his deficiency seems to be fastball command on a start-to-start basis, is more subject to volatility than others. He can be particularly nasty but, because of a susceptibility to deeper counts, is vulnerable to batters having seen him longer and taking advantage of the added information.

As the White Sox return to the second half against the Angels, figure Jose Quintana to get the first start of the unofficial second half. James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez, in either order, are likely to be the second and third starters out of the gate while Sale, pitching in the All Star game on three days rest, will make the fourth start of the second half Monday against the Mariners. Tuesday would see someone called up from the minor leagues to make a spot start but it’s anyone’s guess as to who that might be.

A longshot, and an interesting one at that, would be Carson Fulmer. Fulmer, the Sox first round pick in 2015 has been on somewhat of a roll of late. His last three starts have been promising. On June 26th he went seven scoreless innings, gave up two hits and two walks and struck out seven. July 1st saw him go seven scoreless again and strikeout five while walking three and giving up three hits. July 6th he went 5 innings and gave up two earned on five hits en route to striking out 10 and walking three.

The White Sox were aggressive with his assignment to AA in the first place and the conversations both public and private have been optimistic about Fulmer’s potential to help out at the major league level this season. A spot start, with the addendum of him moving into the major league bullpen afterward, might give the Sox a chance to evaluate his arsenal against major league hitters and shape his plan as a reliever going down the line in 2016. While the promotion to the Major Leagues would be an aggressive one, Fulmer seems to be a kid who’s able to process the accelerated path the Sox have chosen for him so far and understands what’s being asked of him.

Plus, it’d just be fun to see what he’s got.

First order of business this weekend, however, is to take the last two against the Atlanta Braves and head into the All Star Break four games over .500. The Sox have Jose Quintana and James Shields throwing in the final two games of the season and both pitched very well their last time out.

Enjoy these last two and the break! We’ll have more White Sox baseball Friday, July 15th when the White Sox take on the Angels on WLS AM 890 and the White Sox radio network.