Walker Buehler threw seven strong innings for the Dodgers last night, striking out eight hitters while allowing four runs. His postseason has been rocky, but his rookie season was phenomenal: 8-5, 2.62 ERA, 151 K, 4.08 K:BB ratio, all over 137.1 IP. He’ll be in the conversation for National League Rookie of the Year, which is pretty much all you can hope for from a young pitcher.
You may be asking yourself, “Mark, why the hell are you talking about Walker Buehler?” and that’s a fair question. The Dodgers drafted Buehler 24th overall out of Vanderbilt in the 2015 draft. The White Sox drafted his Commodore rotation-mate 16 picks before that. That young hurler?
There have been questions about Fulmer’s future role since day one. He’s listed at a generous 6-foot-0 and has an irregular delivery that screamed “reliever” to a not-small number of scouts. But his fastball sits in the mid-90s and he already had a good feel for the cutter, so he seemed like a safe bet to at least become a seventh inning guy if the whole starter thing didn’t pan out. Not quite what you want out of a top 10 pick, but positive value is positive value and young late inning arms count as that.
Fulmer’s late season cup of coffee last year was deceiving. He struck out a decent number of hitters (19 in 23.1 IP) and had a respectable 3.86 ERA. But he walked 13 hitters and gave up four home runs, so it was fair to wonder if that was more smoke and mirrors than meat and potatoes. He deserved a shot at the rotation in Spring Training and did well enough to break camp as a starter.
April saw two good starts, one against Toronto (5 IP, 2 ER, 5 K, 1 BB) and one against Kansas City (7 IP, 0 ER, 3 K, 3 BB). That’s it for highlights. Over three starts in May, Fulmer completely lost the thread. He pitched a total of 7.1 innings, allowing 17 earned runs while walking just as many hitters as he struck out (11). Management had seen enough and Fulmer spent the rest of the season with the Charlotte Knights. That didn’t go well either.
Fulmer started nine games for the Knights before being transitioned to the bullpen. The results? A 5.32 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 41 walks over 67.1 IP. His stuff is still there, he just doesn’t seem to have any idea where it’s going once it leaves his hand. His control didn’t improve after shifting to the bullpen, which is pretty concerning. Hopefully with a long winter to learn his new established role, things will turn around for Fulmer otherwise it’s looking more like he’ll be a mop-up man at best.
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