Tag Archives: Zach Putnam

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.

Putnam pushing to be back in White Sox ‘pen

A mid 80’s, dives-off-the-table splitter has been Zach Putnam’s calling card for three seasons with the White Sox. A reliable option out of the bullpen since 2014, Putnam’s 2017 season (one in which he was on pace to throw over 60 innings for the first time in his career) ended early with a surgery to remove bone spurs in his pitching elbow. As June rolled into August, the loss of depth and reliability showed as the White Sox struggled to find consistency out of the bullpen.

Putnam, whose usage had to be limited even through the early part of the 2016 season to manage the pain, says he’s throwing free and clear. “You always have to be willing to adjust expectations when you’re healing,” Putnam said. “Stuff can happen and sometimes it’s out of your control. The point I’m at though–I’ve been on the mound probably twelve times–five or six times out here. [I’m] feeling really good. At this point I don’t expect any setbacks. I’m taking the best care of my body I possibly can.”

Putnam will be part of a rarity in baseball when the season begins. He’ll be a member of a largely veteran bullpen on a team that’s chosen a rebuilding path. “We have a veteran group of guys out there and that’s really nice,” Putnam said. “I think our pitching staff as a whole has a nice veteran presence. With Shields at the top, being our most veteran guy, then you have guys like [David Robertson] and [Nate Jones].”

Veteran though the pitching staff may be, trades, injuries and roster adjustments will happen. Putnam knows that and is looking forward to seeing some of the youth the White Sox have cultivated hit the Big Leagues. “There’s a number of guys that have been impressive, already, to me,” Putnam said. “I was playing catch next to [Michael Kopech] and [Zach Burdi] the other day. [They] were making me wish I was 21 and could throw 100 mph, I’ll tell you that. These guys are out here almost trying to hurt each other playing catch. Just firing rockets,” Putnam joked. “I’m excited to see how that plays for both of them on the mound.”

It won’t be too long before Putnam and the youth movement hit the mound firing rockets, and sinkers, in Cactus League play.

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.