White Sox

Man behind the glasses: How Carson Fulmer will force White Sox hand

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Man behind the glasses: How Carson Fulmer will force White Sox hand

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.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

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."

[ALSO: Fulmer moves up in MLB Pipeline's prospect rankings]

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.”

[RELATED: Sale likes the direction the White Sox are taking]

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.”

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.

The White Sox outfield is finally healthy, and it's got a lot to prove in the second half

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USA TODAY

The White Sox outfield is finally healthy, and it's got a lot to prove in the second half

The outfield the White Sox thought they'd have all season long is finally back together.

Avisail Garcia came off the disabled list ahead of Saturday night's game in Seattle, bringing an end to his second DL stint of the campaign, both of which involved hamstring injuries. Garcia's return came a day after the return of Nicky Delmonico, who had been on the DL with a broken hand since mid May.

Here we are 96 games into the season, and Garcia has logged just 35 games, with Delmonico playing in 38. Leury Garcia had his own lengthy DL trip and has played in only 59 games. Daniel Palka, the replacement for any variety of those injured outfielders, has played in 66 games. Adam Engel, the Opening Day center fielder who is once again struggling with the bat (he entered Saturday with a .215 batting average), is the lone outfielder to see action in an overwhelming majority of the team's contests. He's appeared in 86 of them.

At the dawn of the second half, though, everyone's healthy again. But as is the case with most positions on the current big league roster, how long into this rebuilding franchise's future will those players be occupying those spots?

Outfield is one of a couple areas in which the White Sox have incredible depth. Eloy Jimenez is the No. 2 prospect in baseball and gets a deserved amount of attention (he hit two home runs in Friday night's game down at Triple-A Charlotte), with Luis Robert generating plenty of excitement, too, with his high ranking and oft-discussed tool set. But those two headliners are hardly the only guys angling for a spot in the White Sox outfield of the future. There's Micker Adolfo, Blake Rutherford, Luis Alexander Basabe, Luis Gonzalez, Joel Booker and more all developing down in the minor leagues.

Will all those names make the current crop of White Sox outfielders, finally healthy, irrelevant? And if so, how quickly?

Garcia came into the season as the White Sox reigning All-Star representative, but health isn't the only area in which he's had bad luck this season. He had a very slow start at the plate, slashing just .233/.250/.315 with one homer in 18 games before hitting the DL for two months in late April. Of course, after returning from that first layoff, he was excellent. Garcia slashed .333/.347/.783 with eight homers in just 17 games between June 22 and July 8 before hitting the DL again.

Garcia still has plenty to prove if he wants to be a part of the White Sox long-term future, chiefly in the form of consistency. Some of his numbers in 2017 were among the best in the American League, but can he do that again? Injuries have wiped out his ability to show he can do it over the course of another full season, but the remaining two months and change of the 2018 campaign will be the perfect opportunity to show the White Sox, not to mention the rest of the league, that he is a dependable long-term piece. If he can do that, the White Sox could find offseason suitors or interested parties at next year's trade deadline to swap Garcia for a rebuild-improving package. Or they could opt to extend him. His team control runs out after the 2019 season. Remember: He's only 27 years old.

Delmonico was another player embarking on a "prove it" campaign when 2018 began, and the broken hand sure didn't help him out in that department. But he managed to impress enough to get into the long-term conversation in only two months of action last season. Perhaps he could do the same over the final 60-plus games of this season.

If he's going to impress enough to do that, though, he'll have to shake off his own not-so-great beginning to the season, when he slashed .224/.333/.302 with only one homer in 37 games. In Friday's second-half opener, he went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.

Can any other members of this outfield do enough to keep themselves among the possibilities as the wave of prospects starts washing ashore on the South Side? For has hard as he's hit the ball — his nickname maybe should be "Exit Velocity" — Palka's managed just a .234 batting average and a .280 on-base percentage to go along with his 12 homers and 33 RBIs. Engel has still struggled to show he can do much offensively to complement his great defensive abilities. The player with the best case to stay in the conversation, at this point, might be Leury Garcia. The White Sox love his versatility, his ability to play both infield and outfield, and he's been on an offensive tear since returning from his own month-long layoff, slashing .338/.348/.477 in his last 20 games. Maybe he garners some interest as the trade deadline rapidly approaches?

Jimenez — slashing .319/.373/.594 with five homers in 18 games since being promoted to Triple-A — is coming. If he keeps this pace up, he'd figure to be a lock to play for the White Sox before the end of this season. But Rick Hahn has talked about the importance of Jimenez getting at-bats in Triple-A, and the 30-games-under-.500 White Sox are in no rush to bring up reinforcements before their development dictates it.

So there might be an increasingly limited window in which this crop of outfielders has the opportunity to prove its worth in the White Sox long-term plans. Injuries that have slowed things down for Robert and Adolfo have increased that opportunity for the current big leaguers, too. But as Basabe showed in last weekend's Futures Game, there's no shortage of outfield prospects knocking on the door. So for the Garcias, Delmonico, Engel and Palka, now's the time to impress.