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Carson Fulmer adds to his arsenal

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White Sox' top pitching prospect working on cutter and new changeup grip

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the White Sox have a rich history of speeding their top pitching prospects through the minors, Carson Fulmer hasn't generated the same kind of exuberance as Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon. That's not his fault. Those are tough opening acts, and Fulmer has some natural limiting factors that fit a bullpen profile (shorter and right-handed, and needs a higher-effort delivery to generate velocity).

The Sox see more than a reliever in him, and he showed more than a reliever in his outing against the A's on Sunday.

Fulmer worked his longest outing of the spring yet, throwing 3⅓ scoreless innings while upstaging Jacob Turner in the process. He allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out three over 55 pitches, which broke down by my tally as such:

  • 35 fastballs (25 strikes)
  • 16 breaking balls (6 strikes)
  • 4 changeups

But having watched Fulmer over an extended outing, it's going to take some pitch data -- or at least a radar gun -- to figure out what he's throwing, because 1) the severe offset of Camelback Ranch cameras don't give true reads on running action, and 2) he's more than a fastball-curve guy now.

Here's what we're dealing with: He has two different tilts on his breaking ball depending on the situation -- the power curve in the dirt's for strikeouts -- and one might be classified as a slider. Compounding the issue further, some of the pitches I'm detecting to be sliders might actually be cutters, and he's throwing a couple different changeups, too (one a split grip, a la Jesse Crain).

Fulmer didn't have great command of his breaking ball, and judging from his post-pitch reactions, he looked to be fighting it. However, he was missing down/off the plate instead of up and over, so the A's couldn't hurt him. Oakland hitters failed to make sound contact off him in general. Josh Reddick touched up Fulmer for a single, but he slapped a low-and-away fastball to beat the shift for it.

He appeared to benefit from the fastball-cutter dynamic though, especially to right-handed hitters. Danny Valencia couldn't pick up Fulmer's fastball in either of his two trips, including this mess of a swing:

Carson Fulmer fastball

While Khris Davis' barrel didn't anticipate the movement on a cutter, resulting in a broken bat and a weak dribbler:

Fulmer Davis

He had no problem elevating his fastball -- even inside -- and combining that with the curves down for a foundation brings Jose Quintana to mind (except Fulmer's breaking ball has more power). You can see a couple of the wipeout curves in the highlight video.

The question is whether one of these other two pitches can work for him as a legit third offering, because that changes the entire projections. He could stand to improve fastball command, and while he has decaffeinated his windup with the Sox -- it resembles that of fellow Vanderbilt alum David Price -- the glove jumped around on him some. He issued both of his walks after getting ahead, and that's one way to throw 100 pitches over five innings. (Based on the reaction from Oakland hitters, Fulmer also benefited from a big plate.)

What was cool about Sunday, though, was that the A's couldn't assert themselves even with Fulmer being a little bit off. His misses weren't fat, and I think two different kinds of fastballs made it tough on them, at least way more than the changeup did. He only threw a handful of those -- one was a resounding swing-and-miss, the others were easy takes.

I'm assuming he opens the season in Birmingham and gets used to starting every five days (Rodon said one of the biggest challenges his rookie season was developing a routine). But even though he might not have Rodon's status or Sale's overwhelming weirdness, one can see why the White Sox think he can follow their footsteps rather faithfully.

“He’s jumped up there pretty high,” Ventura said. “Coop’s excited about what he’s been doing down here, making some adjustments and really putting himself on the radar for a couple of needs that might arise. He could probably fill both of those. Just an impressive young guy and is very mature and is learning very quickly as he goes along.”