We are inside a fortnight of the 2015 MLB draft, and with numerous mock drafts in the books, we're starting to get a firm idea of which draft prospects are more realistic than others as June 8 approaches.
In particular, the White Sox have been tied to collegiate pitchers, with position players regarded only as afterthoughts, and the combination of high-impact injuries and a weaker-than-usual draft class have caused the rankings inside the top 10 to churn more than usual.
Yet despite the turnover, there is a strange amount of agreement on who is most likely to land with the White Sox at the moment, and that's Vanderbilt right-handed pitcher Carson Fulmer.
Who is Carson Fulmer?
Fulmer is the leader of the loaded pitching rotation of a loaded Vanderbilt Commodores team. He's 11-2 with a 1.97 ERA with 136 strikeouts to just 112 baserunners (67 hits, 38 walks, seven HBPs) over 100 innings. His combination of a big fastball and sharp power curve is overwhelming at the collegiate level, and it held up during the transition from Vandy's bullpen to its rotation during his sophomore year in 2014.
So, what's the catch? He's 6 feet tall and 195 pounds at most, so he doesn't have the big-bodied "durable frame" that most think of when considering a right-handed starting pitcher. Also, he uses a rapid delivery to generate that velocity, which means it isn't the most conducive to great command.
He hails from Lakeland, Fla. (Chris Sale's hometown), and was drafted by the Red Sox in the 15th round of the 2012 draft due to signability concerns. Holding out proved to be the right call.
How does he rank?
What's his game?
Fulmer establishes his fastball at 93-95 mph, tops out at 98, and then he drops his sharp-breaking, two-plane curve on hitters. He has the makings of an above-average changeup, but like other talented collegiate pitchers, he hasn't needed it enough to polish it. While the reports acknowledge a mixed forecast due to his build, there's a unanimous response to questons about his makeup ("competitive" to "hyper-aggressive").
What does he look like?
Why would the White Sox draft him?
Reading through this post should have triggered a familiar feeling or two. The Sox aren't scared of starting pitching prospects with unorthodox builds and the deliveries that result (Chris Sale, Tyler Danish). They're also drawn to pitchers who wear their balls on their sleeves (Sale, Danish, Carlos Rodon), under the Don Cooper adage, "You'd rather tame a tiger than push a mule." While his high-effort delivery inspires injury concerns, he's never been hurt, and short pitchers with his status have tended to beat even optimistic expectations. And then there's the matter of Law's pessimistic ranking. You do the math.
Fulmer also offers the added bonus of being MLB relief-ready in a hurry, and we know the Sox aren't afraid to channel collegiate pitchers into the bullpen early in their professional careers.
Why would the White Sox draft somebody else?
While Sale and Danish had weird deliveries that most people pegged to be bullpen-only, they still managed to be stingy with walks in their pre-professional careers (second-round pick Spencer Adams is another guy with precise command for his stuff).
Rodon's walk rate at NC State was the most mortal of the bunch (3.04 per nine innings), and that's still better than Fulmer, who has worked to cut his down to 3.40. Perhaps that's the one thing that convinces the Sox that even they can't make a starter out of him.
Where's he going in mock drafts?
This kind of unanimity is rare, but all of the outlets expect the Sox to select a collegiate pitcher, and Fulmer very much fits their kind of pitcher. The only question seems to be whether the Sox would pick Fulmer if Illinois lefty Tyler Jay were still on the board. Only Law puts that to the test -- the answer is obviously "yes," with Jay going to Cincinnati at No. 11 -- but he's been pessimistic on Jay's stock due to the Illini coach relegating him to the bullpen.