Sunday afternoon was a busy, busy time for the Cincinnati Reds. Sonny Gray was scratched from his pitching appearance and said that he might miss the first week of the regular season as he tries to deal with his back spasm issue now rather than later. Shortly after that the Reds announced that they had picked up right-handed pitcher Carson Fulmer off of waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Arg you curious about what Carson Fulmer is bringing to the table? No, I will not apologize for that dad joke. Fulmer was the 8th overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft back in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. He reached the big leagues the next year with the White Sox, but he’s struggled in parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues, throwing just 105.0 innings while walking 69 batters, hitting another 14, and striking out 94 while posting a 6.34 ERA.

The last year in particular has been full of a lot of movement for Carson Fulmer. Just prior to the 2020 season he was claimed on waivers by the Detroit Tigers. A month later he was claimed on waivers by the Pirates. Two weeks later he was claimed on waivers by the Orioles. Two and a half weeks after that the Pirates claimed him on waivers once again. This spring with Pittsburgh he’s pitched in three games and allowed two runs in 4.0 innings on three hits, no walks, and he’s struck out four of the 14 batters he’s faced. But the Pirates put him on waivers and this time it was Cincinnati that claimed him, filling up their 40-man roster for the time being.

During the 2020 season the velocity was way down for Carson Fulmer. He averaged 94 MPH on his fastball in 2019, but in 2020 he averaged just 92.5 MPH. In both cases we’re dealing with a small sample size – just 27.1 innings and 10.1 innings (over 10 games). Still, 1.5 MPH even in a small sample size is a lot. Aside from the fastball, Fulmer also throws a cutter, curveball, and a change up.

Looking at Fangraphs pitch values, his cutter has been very good at times in his career, and it’s the only pitch he has that has a positive value for his career – though it is barely over the 0.0 mark. It was good in three of his five seasons, but quite negative in the other two. The cutter is a pitch he has thrown 25.3% in his career, but last season it was a career low 11.7% (small sample size of just 10.1 innings).

The good news is that Carson Fulmer can spin the ball well. His spin rate on his pitches grades out high across the board. The bad news is that his spin hasn’t been useful, so he’s been wasting much of that and it’s not allowed his pitches to play up as well as the raw spin rate may suggest. This is something that the Reds will likely try to work with him on. If you recall, Tejay Antone spent his offseason working on improving his spin efficiency on his fastball, and he said he was able to do it rather quickly.

Getting better spin efficiency would likely help solve one of the problems for Carson Fulmer. But he might have an even bigger problem: He struggles to throw strikes. As noted above, he’s walked or hit 83 batters in 105.0 career big league innings. If you cut that number in half it would still be a tad bit higher than you’d like it to be. As a 4-pitch guy, perhaps some of the control issues can be alleviated by honing in on two, or maybe three pitches in the right scenarios. That could allow a little more focus on those pitches, eliminating the worst option, and also giving more time to work on the ones that remain.

As things go with most waiver wire acquisitions, you’re hoping to fix something. It’s not usual for players with a good track record to hit the waiver wire. Cincinnati sees something with Carson Fulmer that they believe they can work with. A lot of other teams have felt the same way in the last year, too, without much success. Perhaps Derek Johnson, Eric Jagers, Lee Tunnell, and Kyle Boddy can work some magic here that the other organizations couldn’t quite tap into to turn things around. There’s not much time to do so, though. Fulmer is out of options and there are only two weeks remaining in spring training. They’re going to need to make a rather quick decision on him, or try to sneak him through waivers themselves.

No update on Shogo Akiyama

Saturday night saw Shogo Akiyama exit the game with a hamstring injury. The outfielder did not take the field after the second inning and was replaced in center. After the game on Sunday, manager David Bell said that there was no update but that he hoped to have on on Monday morning.

Editors note: This article originally included information saying that Aristides Aquino, José De León, and Cionel Pérez had an option remaining for the year as indicated in the Reds Game Notes. Despite that being there, it has still not officially been decided if they do or do not.

14 Responses

  1. amdg

    Throughout his college, minor, and major league career, his most consistent trait has been his ability to walk people. Which probably isn’t the attribute you want to be consistently proficient at?

    He averaged almost 4 BB per 9 IP in college, almost 5 BB per 9 IP in the minors, and almost 6 BB per 9 IP in the majors.

    Unfortunately for him, when he makes the ball hittable, the batters hit it. And when he makes it unhittable, the batters take walks.

    • MuddyCleats

      Nice summary, but still worth a look IMO. Perhaps ole coach can straighten him out? Very good news on the others having options left – gives Reds some flexibility.

  2. VaRedsFan

    You know things are looking up when you pick up Pirate castoffs.

  3. Matt O'Neal

    Unless I’m missing something, this puts the Reds 40 man at 42. Solomon and Bailey are set for the 60 day DL, but if the Reds want to make any other roster moves, someone has to get DFA’d

  4. RojoBenjy

    Here’s hoping that Driveline and Boddy can straighten him out. They’ve had some pretty good results with reviving a few guys, at least based on what’s been seen so far in ST.

  5. Optimist

    A roster status question. Can Fuller be released, and does that make him a free agent? Then, sign him to a non-40 man roster MiLB contract, see if the coaching works, and recall as needed? Basically making the Bats a Driveline subsidiary, though paying the customer rather than vice-versa.

    • BK

      I don’t believe he’s been “outrighted” to the minors before (i.e., removed from the 40-man). So, if the Reds can pass him through waivers as part of the DFA process I believe they can then “outright” him to AAA and retain his rights for the 2021 season.

  6. Old Big Ed

    Fulmer was a Vanderbilt pitcher taken ahead of Walker Buehler (24th overall) in the 2015 draft. Another Vandy guy, Dansby Swanson, was taken first overall.

    Derek Johnson would have recruited Fulmer, then left the summer before Fulmer’s freshman year. Johnson does have some history with him, though.

    The 2015’s star was Alex Bregman, taken second; Andrew Benintendi was taken 7th. The Reds took Tyler Stephenson at #11, and now have Kyle Holder, who the Yankees took at #30. Tony Santillan was the Reds second-round pick, with Tanner Rainey a supplemental second-rounder. The guys remaining (I think) from that draft include Brantley Bell, Alexis Diaz, Alejo Lopez and Connor Bennett.

  7. Doug Gray

    Editors note: This article originally included information saying that Aristides Aquino, José De León, and Cionel Pérez had an option remaining for the year as indicated in the Reds Game Notes. Despite that being there, it has still not officially been decided if they do or do not.

  8. RedsGettingBetter

    Tigers, Pirates, Orioles and again Pirates got him. What a group of teams! now the Reds join them, it is not a good feeling

  9. Tomn

    I think i just saw that the Dodgers waived Josiah Gray.

    • Tomn

      He was cut apparently. Find that surprising but the Dodgers are just so loaded. Wonder if the Reds can pick him up.

    • Doug Gray

      Let’s be clear here: He was sent to the minors, not cut or waived (which would make him a free agent and or claimable on waivers).

      • Tomn

        Thanks for the clarification. The article I read was a bit unclear