When Detroit Tigers ace pitcher, Michael Fulmer went down last season, it made a bad team even worse. By the end of 2017, the Tigers would have the worst record in the American League (64-98) and tie the Giants overall in standings. As a team, Detroit would only win four more games the rest of the way and lose 15.
The last time we saw Fulmer on the mound was August 29, 2017. He had just come off a miserable performance allowing five earned runs on eight hits in just 6.1 innings. This would mark the third game in his last five performances giving up five earned or more. In just one of those, he would get through the sixth inning. How does the 2016 Rookie of the Year winner and a performance dominator through July of 2017, go from giving up 50 runs in 134 innings (3.36 ERA) to 20 in 30.1 (5.98 ERA)? Fulmer would also see his K/9 drop (7.5 to 6.2) and his left on base also decrease (79 to 65.6 percent). Something was wrong.
After a visit with Dr. James Andrews, we would find out that Fulmer would need to have ulnar transportation surgery on his throwing elbow. This would officially end his season in early September. The procedure would hopefully correct the finger numbness and hand weakness that he was experiencing. So, how does this translate into Fulmer’s fantasy value? Tigers general manager Al Avila believes Fulmer will be fully healthy at spring training. “He’s thrown out to 180 feet with no restrictions and no setbacks, so right now he’s on track to be 100 percent coming into spring training,” Avila said.
The bright spot is that Fulmer will only be 25-years old come March 15th. However, it still may take time for him to get accustomed to the mound again, and this needs to be considered when watching him during the spring games. Even if he looks dominating and back to full form his risk may not match his reward.
At this point. Fulmer is ranked among starting pitchers as 60th on Fantasy Pros, ESPN has him 46th, while he is listed as 58th on Yahoo. The biggest area of concern outside of aggravating his injury is two-fold. One, Fulmer’s K/9 needs to go higher. Secondly, the team around him is not going to supply many victories.
The Tigers are in an obvious rebuilding stage, Letting several key players go that supplied their success over the last few seasons. Since All-Star break 2017, J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander, and Ian Kinsler are all gone. They still have elderly Miggy Cabrera (34-years old). However, Cabrera is coming off his worst performance in his career. A .249 batting average with just 16 homers and 60 RBI.
I say let someone else take a chance on Fulmer unless his market value is too much to pass up. I don’t see him being more than a late fourth or early fifth pitcher even if he is healthy throughout.