Carson Fulmer is clear to sign with the White Sox.
Alas, since Fulmer is tied to the Sox in 2015, of course this news could have happened under happier circumstances. Fulmer's Vanderbilt Commodores lost the College World Series to Virginia, with the Cavaliers taking the best-of-three series with a 4-2 victory in Omaha on Wednesday.
The silver lining is that nobody could blame Fulmer, who closed out his Vanderbilt career with 7⅔ shutout innings on Monday. Vandy had its top three starters lined up, all of whom were drafted within the first three rounds. Fulmer set the bar on Monday, but neither Phil Pfeifer nor Walker Buehler could reach it.
While the Commodores' run extended Fulmer's collegiate career to its limit, the White Sox have set parameters for his bonus by agreeing to terms with their other draftees. The White Sox' other picks within the top 10 rounds signed for a combined $1.703 million, and one third-day pick (Chris Comito) signed for $170,000, meaning that the Sox have Fulmer's slot amount available ($3.470,600), plus about $104,000 of their pool allotment.
No signability concerns have been raised with Fulmer, so I've been assuming he'll sign for slot, give or take. If he takes, then he'll sop up the rest of the surplus and you can close the book on this draft class. But Future Sox outlined an outside-chance scenario involving 36th-round pick Mike Hickman, a left-handed catcher/first baseman who has a commitment to Oklahoma.
But there is another key factor here - The White Sox can go over their allotted pool by as much as 4.99%, pay an extra 75% "tax", and still not lose future picks. That gives them an extra $267,374 to play with, if they so choose (and they did last year, in getting Carlos Rodon inked). So now, with a slot signing of Fulmer, the Sox could try to go all-in on Hickman and offer him as much as $471,274, and that could potentially work. Grabbing Mike Hickman would be a very nice addition to a somewhat hollowed-out draft with the loss of 2nd and 3rd round selections.
It all comes down to what Fulmer signs for. Any overage likely is offered to the OU-committed catcher, and if he declines, they may make similar overtures (in perhaps smaller, non-penalty amounts) to Alston and/or King. All eyes and ears are on number one for now.
We saw this happen with Bryce Montes de Oca last year. The Sox selected the Missouri commit in the 14th round, and while the big-bodied righty seemed highly unlikely to sign from the start, he couldn't even factor into the plans, as Carlos Rodon blew out the budget to the brink of a severe penalty by himself. Not that anybody's complaining.
That max figure -- $471,274 -- is in the ballpark of Trey Michalczewski money (another OU commit; he signed for $500,000 in 2013). One key difference? The Sox selected Michalczewski in the seventh round, so they probably had a strong idea of what it would take. With Hickman lasting until nepotism territory, it suggests a higher figure is necessary.
At any rate, this is really the only reason for the Sox to move quickly on Fulmer, because they will probably minimize his workload the rest of the season. He threw 128 innings for the Commodores this season -- going 14-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 167 strikeouts -- which is a 37-inning jump over his 2014 total, and more innings than Carlos Rodon threw in college and professional baseball combined last year. And with the way the big-league club is playing, I'm guessing there isn't a need to put him on the Chris Sale plan.