If there was anything good that came from trading away Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline in 2015, it was Michael Fulmer. The Detroit Tigers coaches and scouts are closely watching this 22-year-old right-handed pitcher from Oklahoma.
He was originally drafted by the New York Mets in 2011 shortly after he graduated from high school. He was the 11th pick in the first round. In his first season in the minor league, he only pitched in five innings, but he was just coming off of a senior season of prep baseball. In his second full season, he pitched in Single-A for the Savannah Sand Gnats where he earned a 2.74 ERA in 21 games and 108.1 innings. In 2013, he spent time on the disabled list and bounced between the Advanced-A St. Lucie Mets and the Rookie GLC Mets.
He had a better season in 2014, but did spend time on the DL. He pitched for the Double-A Binghamton Mets and the Savannah Sand Gnats with a combined 4.38 ERA in the 20 games he started.
When the Tigers picked him up in the Cespedes trade in 2015, he was back in St. Lucie after a stint in Binghamton. The Tigers assigned him to the Double-A Erie Seawolves where he started in 6 games earning a respectable 2.84 ERA. He struck out 33 batters and allowed no home runs. After his outstanding outings with the Seawolves and the Mets, Fulmer was awarded the Pitcher of the Year honor in the Eastern League. Between his innings with Binghamton and Erie, he struck out 112 batters, posted a 10-3 record, and a 2.06 ERA.
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Now, Fulmer is one of the top prospects in baseball today. His name has continually pops up as the best Detroit Tigers prospect this season. Fangraphs compares his pitching to current Tigers pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. He is the only Detroit Tigers prospect to land on the Baseball Prospectus list of 101 Top Prospects for 2016.
Fulmer is currently sitting on the 40-man roster and will join the Tigers in Lakeland, Florida for spring training this week. There, he will battle against Shane Greene, Daniel Norris, Angel Nesbitt, and a handful of other young pitchers for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Fulmer has serious competition from Norris who has already had successful starts in Detroit. Most likely, Fulmer will pitch for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, but he could show up in the Tigers bullpen.
Fulmer’s pitching is worth the price of admission to any Toledo Mud Hens game. He stands 6’3 and 200 pounds. His fastball reaches 98 mph, but usually comes in the mid-90s. Scouts have rated his fastball a 70 on a 20-80 scouting scale. His change up received a 45 grade, showing that he does need some work on his secondary pitches. With the number of strikeouts he recorded in 2015, it is obvious that Fulmer knows how to throw a put-away pitch.