Tim Anderson is the shortstop of the future. Carlos Rodon seems a logical choice to be the Opening Day starter. Zack Burdi, Zack Collins, Jake Burger, Nick Madrigal — they all pop up on the list of top prospects in the organization.
They're all first-round picks of the White Sox in the last six drafts, and they could all end up playing significant roles in the White Sox bright future, one that's planned to yield a perennial contender on the South Side.
But you'll notice there's someone missing from that list.
Yes, the White Sox spent the No. 8 pick in the 2015 draft on Carson Fulmer, a name many White Sox fans might have already moved to the back of their minds despite the fact that he pitched for the big league team as recently as last May, and certainly one that few of those fans are including in their own long-term roster projections.
But the potential for Fulmer to wind up playing a significant role once the franchise shifts from rebuilding mode to contending mode still exists.
Skeptical? You're not alone. A fan stood up at SoxFest and made no effort to beat around the bush in asking Rick Hahn why Fulmer has been such a disappointment. Hahn provided a quippy retort: "So part of the Carson Fulmer fan club’s here tonight, good to see."
But the question wasn't exactly without merit, even if it was phrased a little bluntly and in a fashion that assumes that Fulmer will never contribute again at the big league level.
Though he made the Opening Day rotation, his 2018 season was nightmarish: an 8.07 ERA with 24 walks and just 29 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. He was quickly dispatched to the minors after his three May starts all came to abrupt endings and he allowed a total of 17 earned runs in only 7.1 innings.
And things didn't go much better at Triple-A Charlotte. Fulmer had a 5.80 ERA with 32 walks in 45 innings in his nine starts after getting sent down. But then the White Sox moved him to the bullpen, and things got better. In 16 relief appearances to close out the season, Fulmer posted a 4.37 ERA with only nine walks in 22.2 innings. See? Better.
It might not be enough to convince the skeptics that there's a role to play for the only recent first-round pick who's been cast aside by the fan base. But Hahn and the White Sox are keeping the faith.
Hahn's actual response to that fan's question touted the organization's belief that Fulmer can one day live up to that top-10 potential, even if it's as a bullpen pitcher rather than a dominant starter.
"Carson was probably the best college pitcher in the country when he was taken out of Vanderbilt, has — what the scouts would put on the 80-20 scale — 80 makeup. So the raw ingredients are there and the commitment to being great is there," Hahn said. "Quite frankly, he got rushed a little bit to the big leagues. He was put into a bullpen role after being a starter in the 2015 season. It was a rush to try to plug a hole in the major league bullpen.
"That probably didn’t do him a service for the long term, but it doesn’t change the fact that he still has that talent and still has that makeup behind him. ... There’s reason to be optimistic about him getting back to that stature he had when we took him.
"Right now, we’ll see how it plays out in the bullpen. Don’t rule anything out, given that he’s been there before and has the repertoire to do it (be a starting pitcher). But let’s start with success in shorter spurts and go from there."
Based purely on results, Fulmer's long-term future does appear to be a bit of a mystery. But the White Sox seem intent on doing what they can to make him a part of their bullpen of the future. When a return to the majors is possible, who knows?
But like a supervillain fleeing the scene of the crime, it seems you haven't seen the last of Carson Fulmer.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.