Superman has his cape. Thor has his hammer. Iron Man has his suit.
Carson Fulmer? He has his glasses.
When the White Sox first-round pick from 2015 puts on his glasses before he dashes out to the mound, he transforms from a quiet kid from Lakeland, Fla. to a fiery competitor with a live fastball and an ace mentality.
Fulmer donned the glasses after a stretch band slipped off his foot while stretching before a game his freshman year and hit him in the eye. It didn’t cause any permanent damage to his eye but he keeps them on to protect himself during a game.
“A lot of guys say it's intimidating,” Fulmer said. “I have no intentions of making it like that. I just use it for protection. I've gotten used to it. I kind of like them though.”
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Fulmer lives for the big moment and thrives when challenged. At Vanderbilt, Fulmer got the start in the Commodores’ biggest game in program history, Game 3 of the 2014 College World Series, and went 5 1/3 innings, giving up just one earned run, three hits and two walks along with five strikeouts against Virginia, a team that won 53 games that year. The win gave Vanderbilt its first men’s national championship ever. In any sport.
In 2015, Fulmer was named SEC Pitcher of the Year and a Golden Spikes Award finalist after going 14-2 with a 1.83 ERA and 167 strikeouts over 127 2/3 innings. Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin gave Fulmer the ball to start Game 1 of the 2015 College World Series, a rematch against Virginia. To nobody’s surprise, Fulmer rose to the occasion. He left to a standing ovation from the Commodore faithful in Omaha after going 7 2/3 innings, giving up just two hits and two walks while striking out eight. And most importantly: no runs.
The right-hander earned the nickname “Filthy Fulmer” during his time in Nashville and garnered some elite praise from Corbin, who has watched pitchers such as David Price and Sonny Gray come through the program.
"As a kid, we just haven't had many like him," Corbin said after Fulmer’s final start. "He's one of the most special kids that we've ever had on our campus. I mean, this kid's, like, a 4.0 student. His last term here, when everything -- the focus -- could be anywhere but on academics, he just does such a good job, like Dansby (Swanson), on centering themselves in the moment and containing whatever they have to do. But he's a special, special competitor, and he'll go down as one of the greatest pitchers to ever pitch at Vanderbilt. I don't want to say the (greatest), because we've had some good ones, but I'll tell you what, he's a special guy."
Fulmer, who finished his collegiate career with a 24-3 record in three years, heads to a franchise that has made a habit of moving established college pitchers through the minors quickly.
Chris Sale lasted 10 1/3 innings in the minors before packing his bags for U.S. Cellular Field. Carlos Rodon tossed 34 1/3 innings between Charlotte and Winston-Salem and then became a staple in the White Sox rotation. One national analyst envisions Fulmer getting the call sometime this summer. GM Rick Hahn is already getting questions surrounding Fulmer’s expected arrival time at 35th and Shields.
“The funny thing is that if Carson contributed to us in 2017 that would be an extremely quick developmental path,” Hahn said at SoxFest 2016. “I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation. Given how quickly Chris Sale came along and how quickly Carlos Rodon came along, I think there's this mild thought in the back of some people's heads that perhaps Carson will be on that same path given his talent and given his makeup and the fact that we've seen other guys do it.
“The good ones have a way of forcing that time frame and letting you know when they're ready. Once they do, we'll create the opportunity.”
Fulmer’s path to the majors may be expedited if the Sox see a spot in the bullpen open up. But the team still has a long term goal of making him a big piece of their starting rotation.
"I will not be the one to tell Carson Fulmer he won't start, because he's liable to punch you in the face,” White Sox scouting director Nick Hostetler said.
Sale, another Lakeland native, has been in Fulmer’s ear ever since he got drafted, helping him prepare for his big moment.
“We've actually spent quite a bit of time together,” Sale said. “I was up in Lakeland and he came over to the house a couple weeks ago. We played golf in my hometown. I've been able to spend some time with him and show him the ropes and get him prepared for what he's about to start.”
The question doesn’t seem to be will the six-foot future ace be good, it’s how good will he be. He’s already listed as the No. 38 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com and is the ninth rated right-hander in all of the minors. With the arm, the makeup and those lethal glasses, Fulmer will force the White Sox hand in 2016.
“They have a plan," Fulmer said. "And I have to respect that. Obviously it's a huge dream of mine to make it to the big leagues. I just got to sit back and be patient with it. Wherever they send me is where they are going to send me.”