White Sox

Carson Fulmer expected to be part of White Sox rotation, but is he a part of the rebuild's future?

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USA TODAY

Carson Fulmer expected to be part of White Sox rotation, but is he a part of the rebuild's future?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The White Sox starting rotation is coming into focus.

With James Shields, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez locked into the top three slots, one of the items on the team’s offseason to-do list was to figure out who the final two spots would go to.

Obviously, Carlos Rodon has a spot when he’s healthy. But after having surgery at the end of last season, there’s no telling when he’ll be back. General manager Rick Hahn keeps saying it could be by Opening Day or it could be by June, and there has been no change to that prognosis at the Winter Meetings here at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.

One of the two open spots, though, appears set to go to Carson Fulmer, the White Sox first-round draft pick back in 2015. Hahn said if everything remains the same as it is right now, the team expects Fulmer to be one of its five starting pitchers in 2018.

“We certainly have the expectation that he’ll be part of the rotation come the end of spring training,” Hahn said during his daily briefing Tuesday. “Let’s see how everybody shows up, health wise, any other potential transactions between now and then, and what the ultimate fit is and what’s best for his long-term development. But as we sit here today, I think you could look at him as one of our five.”

While Fulmer was drafted out of Vanderbilt to be a starting pitcher of the future, he’s made just five big league starts in his mere 15 appearances in the majors. As a reliever in 2016, things went poorly, as he allowed 11 runs in just 11.2 innings. Last season was better, at least after his first appearance of the season, in which he gave up six runs in 1.1 innings in a start on Aug. 21. He came back in September and posted a 1.64 ERA in six appearances, which included four starts.

Hahn admitted Tuesday that Fulmer might have been rushed to the big leagues after being selected with the No. 8 pick in 2015. But if Fulmer can replicate what happened in September, maybe there’s another future piece people should be talking about.

“He’s had some hardships thrown his way, both with getting accelerated a little too quickly to get the big leagues initially given where we were as a club at the time to some off-the-field stuff. But he’s bounced back from all of it, he hasn’t hung his head at all, and I think in September we saw him hit his stride a little bit and show some of the flashes of what he’s capable of doing,” Hahn said. “We certainly view him as a guy who has the ability to contribute both in the rotation or in the ‘pen depending on where the need is.”

Considering Fulmer was drafted and even made his major league debut before the much-heralded rebuild officially began, it’s easy to let him slip through the cracks when mentioning highly rated prospects like Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez and even fellow pitchers like Giolito and Lopez. But Hahn said he thinks Fulmer should be included in that group of names, too.

“I think so,” Hahn said. “From a fit standpoint, from a clubhouse standpoint, it’s tough to beat him. From success in big games, we saw that going back to Vanderbilt. So he’s been tested under the brightest lights at each stage and succeeded. Now it’s a matter of him, as we saw to an extent in September, seizing the opportunity that’s in front of him and making the most of it.”

It sure looks like Fulmer will get that opportunity — even if the White Sox add a veteran to help balance out a young rotation. And then he can prove if he is truly a long-term piece of the puzzle on the South Side.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon’s breakout summer

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Carlos Rodon’s breakout summer

Carlos Rodon speaks with Chuck Garfien about his dominant stretch of starts and how he’s started to figure things out as a major league pitcher. Rodon talks about controlling his temper on the mound and how he’s learned to win on days he doesn’t have his best stuff. He explains why he doesn’t miss any of Daniel Palka’s at-bats, how he’s impressed with Michael Kopech, why he sympathizes with Kopech being in Triple-A, why he’s not wearing an undershirt during games and much more.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Yoan Moncada is back at the top of the White Sox batting order

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USA TODAY

Yoan Moncada is back at the top of the White Sox batting order

Yoan Moncada’s time down near the bottom of the White Sox batting order came to a quick end this weekend. After just five games, Moncada returned to the top of the lineup for Friday’s game and was there again for Game 2 of the series with the visiting Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

It ended up being the “break” that manager Rick Renteria described it as, and the skipper, for one, believes that short stretch was beneficial to Moncada, who was struggling mightily when Renteria made that move last week.

Through the first 19 games of the second half, Moncada slashed .122/.250/.216 with three extra-base hits, four RBIs and 33 strikeouts. It was as noticeable a period of struggles at the plate as he’s had in his first full season in the majors, a campaign that has to this point failed to meet the big expectations the former No. 1 prospect in baseball carried with him into this season.

Renteria said that bumping Moncada down in the lineup would allow him to watch opposing pitchers face several other batters and remove the need to do certain things that come with batting leadoff.

For what it’s worth, Moncada got four hits — two of them for extra bases and one a home run — and walked twice in 18 plate appearances over the five games against the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. He struck out nine times. Friday, he returned to the leadoff spot and went 1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored (and no strikeouts).

“When we put him down in the bottom of the lineup, it’s because I wanted to have him see other players have multiple at-bats over the course of a couple of games,” Renteria said Saturday. “When you’re leading off, you have a chance of either working very well, working on base, getting your hits, whatever the case might be. But if it’s not working out, you start to get a little frustrated. You’re still grinding through it.

“The perspective that I’m giving him is, ‘Hey, listen, no matter who I put in there, they also make outs. Sometimes they don’t get on. Understand it’s just not you. It’s a difficult position in which you lead off the ballgame.’ I just wanted him to take a breath, take a step back, look at it, and then make an adjustment, allow him to get back into that situation.”

While the numbers from that five-game stretch aren’t enough to determine whether this is the start of a second-half turnaround for Moncada, Renteria said he did believe the experience to be a beneficial one for his second baseman.

“I thought it was beneficial,” he said. “I didn’t necessarily have this conversation to say, ‘Hey, did it work out for you for the last few days?’ Nothing like that. But as you’re talking to him, just in passing, as you go through conversations and you see where they’re at, hopefully we’re making the right decision and the right adjustments for them.”

Moncada still owns a .149 batting average in the second half. He’s on pace to strike out 235 times this season, which would be a new single-season major league record.

But this rebuilding season was always going to be about developmental growing pains. And the idea is that the experiences he’s going through now will pay dividends down the road, when the White Sox shift from rebuilding to contending and Moncada, the hope is, shifts from the developmental stage to the superstar stage.