The Detroit Tigers haven’t had an elite prospect in sometime, but the team employs one now in the form of Michael Fulmer. At just 23-years-old, the pitcher has a chance to contribute and thrive starting this season.
The Detroit Tigers were in dire need of elite prospects and young players at last season’s trade deadline. Faced with a lost season, the team dealt away closer Joakim Soria, ace David Price and slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
The deals for Soria and Price netted high-upside prospects like JaCoby Jones and Daniel Norris, but Detroit may have received the best young player in the Yoenis Cespedes trade. I’m talking, of course, about Michael Fulmer.
The former first-round pick (44th overall) has the potential to be a frontline starter for years to come thanks to what MLB.com calls a “sinking fastball, which easily reaches the mid-90s,” and a slider that “is a swing-and-miss pitch.” The starting pitcher also throws a curveball and a changeup to keep hitters off balance.
Fulmer is currently in camp with the Tigers for Major League Spring Training, and is competing for some kind of role on the team. He’s unlikely to make it as a starter thanks to more experienced options like Shane Greene, Norris and Matt Boyd, but Fulmer could break camp as a reliever on the 25-man roster.
As of now, the pitcher is locked into a battle for a bullpen job. With Detroit likely wanting to limit his innings early on, this kind of a role makes sense. It would allow Fulmer to get his feet wet at the Major League level, while also limiting his work load.
With Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe, Justin Wilson and Blaine Hardy assured roles, there are certainly spots available for Fulmer. Alex Wilson is another who will have a job waiting for him, but only if he’s healthy enough to pitch. If Wilson isn’t ready to start the season on the active roster, Fulmer’s chances of making the team increase significantly.
However, Fulmer has flashed potential as well. Despite a rough third outing in which he was tagged for three walks and three runs in a single inning, the pitcher did well in first two outings, allowing only three base runners and no runs in four innings pitched. He struck out five over the same span.
The former New York Mets farmhand’s future role is that of a frontline pitcher. He and Norris will likely lead the rotation for the better part of a decade.
Given his pitching repertoire, Fulmer seems like the kind of pitcher who can make a handful of All-Star game rosters (if not more) in his career. He has all the potential and makings of an ace, now he just needs to develop and perform.
Motor City Bengals’ 2016 Prediction
Drew Smyly’s 2013 season (the one he spent in the bullpen) has been thrown around a good deal on this site as a potential comparable for Fulmer’s upcoming campaign. The current Tiger won’t throw 76 innings out of relief like Smyly did, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 innings seems about right—as does a 3.60 ERA. While Fulmer can thrive in relief, a starting role in 2016 shouldn’t be ruled out either. He could make a spot start or two with Detroit, or gain more seasoning leading Triple-A Toledo’s rotation.
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