Aaron Fultz

Q&A: Ex-Giants lefty Aaron Fultz on AT&T Park, coaching career and more

fultzap.jpg
AP

Q&A: Ex-Giants lefty Aaron Fultz on AT&T Park, coaching career and more

Former Giants reliever Aaron Fultz, who was the team's sixth-round draft pick in 1992 and spent his first three MLB seasons in San Francisco from 2000 through 2002, now is getting a front-row view of two of the team's top pitching prospects. 

Fultz, 45, is the pitching coach for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League where he oversees four Giants pitching prospects -- Melvin Adon, Garrett Williams, Chase Johnson, and Sam Wolff. NBC Sports Bay Area spoke to Fultz about Adon and Williams, but also much more.

Here is the rest of our conversation with Fultz, who is currently a pitching coach in the Philadelphia Phillies' minor league system.

As someone who spent six years in the minors before your MLB debut, What's your craziest minor leage story as a player?

Looking back at it, it was actually a lot better than when you're living it, because of the amount of things you learn and see. As far as really crazy things, I was pretty low key and didn't see a whole lot. It was a long road, but eventually I was lucky enough to get there [major leagues].

Your MLB career was one of a journeyman. How would you best describe the road of a journeyman?

Just be able to adapt. I was typically always the 11th or 12th man on the staff. I had streaks, runs where I was used in high leverage situations. And I had streaks and runs where I was the long man and just lucky to be on the team. It was give and take. To be a journeyman you have to be willing to adjust to different situations, teammates and everything. That part of it's really not that hard. It's just what you have to do. You don't really have a choice.

What's the mindset of knowing you don't really have a choice?

There's always 29 other teams watching. That's the concept you have to have. That's the truth. Arbitration and all that stuff, most people aren't going to pay you because they can get someone cheaper to replace you.

Have you been able to translate those lessons into your coaching career?

Without a doubt. One of the things I think makes me as good as I am is because I had to struggle and fight through it for so many years. It took me eight years to get there so I've had to work for everything that I got.

[JOHNSON: Giants prospect Melvin Adon makes it look easy in Arizona Fall League]

You also played two years of Indy Ball. What was that experience like?

I would say it's holding onto the dream. You always know at some point your career is going to be over. A lot of the times we don't want to accept it. After my first year [of Indy Ball] I was fortunate enough to get an invite to spring with Cincinnati. When I got released from there, I played for another week or two of Indy Ball before I realized it wasn't gonna happen again for me. They retired me I guess.

When did you start thinking about coaching?

It's something that I always considered. I took two and a half years off before I actually tried to reach out and get back into it. Luckily it worked. Once you've been in professional baseball for that long, it's really hard to work or do anything else. I think I played for 16 or 17 years. You get in a routine of being there and going to spring training in February or March and then getting home in September or so. It's a hard lifestyle to get away from.

[JOHNSON: The key to finding success for Giants pitching prospect Garrett Williams]

You're in the minors right now, but is the ultimate goal a MLB pitching coach?

I think that's always a goal, for sure. You don't want to be a career minor league coach. But there's also plenty of other opportunities. You can always go into scouting or the front office depending on the situation. Right now, my goal's to be a pitching coach in the big leagues, but it may change and I may want try something in scouting or the front office. All that stuff really interests me as well.

As someone who pitched at AT&T Park, what do you think about the idea of moving in Triples Alley?

Honestly, that park plays really big. It would be ok to make it more fair. Obviously, I am kinda biased. I like the way it is. But I also realize the way the game is now, you have to attract free-agent hitters. That does make it a little more appealing to them. If you still have good pitching, those few extra home runs shouldn't hurt you too much ... hopefully.

Giants prospect Melvin Adon makes it look easy in Arizona Fall League

adonyoutube.jpg
YouTube

Giants prospect Melvin Adon makes it look easy in Arizona Fall League

The numbers back up Aaron Fultz’s words.

The former San Francisco southpaw has a front-row view to Giants prospect Melvin Adon in the Arizona Fall League as the Scottsdale Scorpions’ pitching coach. 

Whenever a catcher puts down one finger for Adon, the ball is coming in hard and in the blink of an eye. How it gets there is quite the opposite. 

“The thing that’s so impressive with him, it’s just so easy. It just comes out really easy. You watch him, and it looks like he’s just flippin’ it in there and it comes out at 100,” Fultz said with a laugh Wednesday to NBC Sports Bay Area.

https://twitter.com/BobbyDeMuro/status/1054569461192126466

Through two weeks of the AFL, the ball is firing out of Adon’s fingers and missing bats left and right. In five appearances out of the bullpen, Adon has only allowed one earned run, which came off a two-run homer in his first game in the desert. He’s also struck out 13 in 6 1/3 innings pitched. 

All this success has come as a reliever after a season in which Adon had a 4.87 ERA and 1.49 WHIP at Single-A San Jose as a starter. Should his future be toward the end of games or the beginning for the 24-year-old?

“For me, I’ve heard that when he starts, he still throws 100, but he does it for six innings,” said Fultz, who is the Phillies’ Single-A pitching coach for the Clearwater Threshers. “I think he’s got potential either way. Without a doubt, he definitely could be a back-end piece -- just as strong as he is and how easy it comes out.” 

Adon sits in the upper 90s with his fastball and consistently hits 100 mph. But with every triple-digit fastball, you’re bound to get a few that go nowhere near the catcher. Command can be an issue at times for him, as he walked 3.9 per nine innings in San Jose. For the Scorpions, Adon has yet to issue a walk. 

“I think with Melvin he just needs repetitions. He’s long arms, long body, it’s a lot harder to control,” Fultz said on the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder. “He’s been great here. It’s just being able to find his rhythm and stick with it, which he’s done really well.” 

Baseball is a power game, but Adon will need a secondary strikeout pitch to make the leap. In the AFL, he is working on his changeup and slider, which can be a nasty swing-and-miss pitch at times. Both pitches are far from finished products, however. 

“Honestly, it depends on the day,” Fultz said. "One day I see his changeup where it’s like, ‘Wow,’ and one day I see his slider, and it’s the same thing."

No matter if it’s as a starter or taking the ball at the end of games, Fultz can’t see failure in Adon’s future with all the potential in his explosive right arm. 

“Just assuming, and this is my opinion, if he gets those [off-speed pitches] down consistently, he can be a starter,” Fultz said. "And if he gets a spot in the bullpen first, he can be an eighth or ninth inning guy easily."