Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Roster Decisions: Carson Fulmer


Former top 100 prospect Carson Fulmer is vying for an Opening Day roster spot with the Pittsburgh Pirates. What are his chances of cracking the roster?

The Pittsburgh Pirates will have many different roster battles throughout this upcoming Spring Training. The Pirates have many different relievers throughout their roster and non-roster invite list. One of them is former top prospect Carson Fulmer. So, what are his chances of making the Pirates’ 26-man going into the 2021 regular season?

This is currently Fulmer’s second stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was claimed by the Pirates last August but was designated for assignment very soon after and was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles. However, his stint with the O’s was also very short as he was DFA’d again, and claimed once again by the Bucs.

Before being designated for assignment three times in one 60-game season, Fulmer was once seen as a top pitching prospect. Fulmer was one of the best prospects in the 2015 MLB Draft and was selected with the 8th overall pick by the Chicago White Sox.

Not only was he one of the top 10 picks in the draft, he also pitched very well in his first taste of professional action. In his first 23 innings through nine starts between Rookie-Ball and High-A, Fulmer had a 1.93 ERA, while having a great 28% strikeout rate and 0.8 HR/9. His 9.8% walk rate wasn’t great, but his overall performance and draft status helped him rank as one of baseball’s top 100 prospects going into 2016.

However, Fulmer has yet to live up to his lofty prospect and draft status. The right-hander has had struggles with his control at every level he’s been at so far. Throughout his 105 innings at the major league level, he has walked 13.9% of all the batters he has faced. He’s pitched 243.2 innings at Triple-A, but has a 12.1% walk rate there.

Not only has he struggled with control, but he only has a 6.43 ERA, 6.23 FIP and 1.60 WHIP in the majors. Plus he has a 1.7 HR/9 and 18.9% strikeout rate. ERA estimators haven’t been kind to him either with a 6.01 xFIP, 5.41 SIERA and 6.46 DRA.

However, he shouldn’t be completely written off just yet. 2021 will be just his age-27 season. Fulmer may not be a hard thrower with his cutter coming in around 86 MPH, but his 2623 RPM ranked in the top 91st percentile of fastball spin rate. His curveball also ranked in the top 88th percentile of spin rate with 2674 RPM. His cutter also had horizontal movement that was 101% above the average.

Another thing of note is that only his curveball had a below average pitch value. Fulmer’s cutter, four seam fastball and change up all had -2 run value. It’s possible all Fulmer needs to do is to rework his curveball, or completely drop it in order to get better results.

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Looking at the Pirate roster, he does have some heavy competition. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates have very few locks in terms of guaranteed players to make the 26-man roster, especially in the bullpen.

If Fulmer pitches well this spring he may be rewarded with one of the last bullpen spots. In the end, it may be worth giving him a short to see what he can do. After all, there’s little risk in seeing if a former top 10 draft pick and top 100 prospect can do for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021