The Polarizing Performer: Carson Fulmer, 2015 White Sox First Round Draft Pick

Carson Fulmer

Carson Fulmer (Image via D1baseball.com)

The White Sox selected Vanderbilt RHP Carson Fulmer with the 8th overall pick in the 2015 Rule IV Amateur Draft. Fulmer has performed at a high level in his three years at Vanderbilt (an SEC school). In his collegiate career, Fulmer owns a 1.99 ERA in 257.2 IP with impressive strikeout to walk totals: 298 SOs and 112 BBs, good for a 2.66 SO/BB ratio.

What (and how) he throws:

Fangraphs’ Grade: 40/50 (PV/FV), ETA: 2017, Risk (1-5): 3

“A fastball that sits in the mid-nineties, regularly reaching 97 mph,” (Baseball America):

Fulmer Fastball

95 mph fastball with arm-side run

“A power curveball that can be a plus pitch,” (Baseball America):

Fulmer Curveball

79 mph, two-plane curveball with impressive tilt

“And a changeup that has above-average potential,” (Baseball America):

Fulmer Changeup

84 mph changeup with tailing action (Videos from VUCommodores)

What is immediately striking about Fulmer is, of course, his delivery and stature. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel acknowledges Fulmer’s unorthodox mechanics but believes that his “stuff” and performance more than makes up for the violent delivery.

“The delivery isn’t pretty but the results are and the stuff is above average to plus,” writes McDaniel in a report.

What should be comforting, however, is that the White Sox are no stranger to working with funky, violent, and unorthodox motions. This is an organization that has drafted and developed the likes of Chris Sale, Addison Reed, and Carlos Rodon – none of whom have “clean” deliveries, while recently drafting a pitcher of similar ilk to Fulmer – 6’0” 200lb Tyler Danish (a 2nd round, 2013 draft pick from Durant HS, FL). Like Danish, Fulmer has little to no projection left – Fulmer is sub-six-foot and is filled out with a thick, muscular lower half. That, combined with his delivery, leads scouts like Baseball Prospectus’ Christopher Crawford (Senior Prospect Writer), to believe that Fulmer’s ultimate destination is in the bullpen.

“[I] love the stuff, love the fire, hate the delivery and size … Fulmer could be an exception to the rule — they do happen — but you are taking an awful lot of risk,” writes Crawford in a draft chatroom.

Baseball America further articulates the starter/reliever projection: “Listed at 6-feet, 195 pounds, he is undersized for a right-hander and has an effortful, high-energy delivery. Those factors lead some to see him as a future reliever. But he has a starter’s arsenal and has excelled in that role, both for Vanderbilt and Team USA … He has improved his control this year, but his delivery means he will likely never have better than average command. He earns praise for his makeup and work ethic.”

Makeup & “The Black Swan Theory”:

Kiley McDaniel used the bespectacled Lakeland, Florida native as an example of the latest pitcher who is under-appreciated (undervalued, if you will) by the scouting community – what McDaniel (through the lens of Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan) calls “The Black Swan Theory of Drafting Pitchers.” Ultimately, McDaniel observed a trend of teams not properly weighing the strong (collegiate) performances of (sub) six-foot right handed pitchers – Marcus Stroman, Sonny Gray, Tim Lincecum, Mike Leake, Trevor Bauer, Ian Kennedy – due to their stature and deliveries.

“The principle we can take from this is that players against whom the industry is biased (short righty starters) and who still are regarded as consensus top-20 prospects in their respective draft class (due in part to great performance at big-time college programs) turn out pretty well (six out of seven are big successes). It turns out that the more extreme the example (i.e. the shorter the pitcher), the more successful they are (four out of four),” writes McDaniel in the aforementioned article.

Clearly, Fulmer is a polarizing pitching prospect. But Fulmer has made it this far – now as a professional pitcher – and does not figure to stop performing any time soon,  possibly in the bullpen this season and ultimately as a starter going forward. Fulmer – who figures to be extremely “coachable” and who has no injury history  – joins an organization that excels in pitcher development and health. His electric arsenal, performance at the highest collegiate level, and the glowing reviews of his character make him a hard-one to bet against.

It is entirely fair to criticize the organization’s struggles with position player development, but adding a pitcher and person of this caliber to a farm system that includes Frankie Montas, Tyler Danish, Spencer Adams, and Thaddius Lowry, is an overwhelming success. With Carson Fulmer, the White Sox chose the best player available and a player who will excel in an organization worthy of such an arm.

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Comments

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  • Fantastic piece. I personally see a lot of Oswalt in Fulmer. Hopefully he can have a career near as good as Oswalt's was.

  • In reply to JasonGage:

    Hi, Jason – thank you for the comment. That'd be quite the career! But yes, there are definitely some similarities between the two.

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