Fulmer is the son of a petroleum engineer and a legal secretary. He began to throw a baseball at an early age.
"After my mom got off work, she always put a ball in my hand, and we would toss it. She was determined that I become a baseball player," Fulmer said. He began with T-ball at age 4, and started pitching at age 10, earning first team All-State honors as a senior at Deer Creek High in Edmond, Oklahoma. His senior year he went 10-2 with 127 Ks and a 0.72 ERA while hitting .436 with 6 home runs and 43 RBI.
In 2011, Michael graduated from Deer Creek High School in Edmond, Oklahoma, where he was teammates with future Marlin Brian Anderson.
In 2011, Fulmer got drafted by the Mets (see Transactions below).
In 2012, Baseball America rated Fulmer as the 8th-best prospect in the Mets' organization. He was at #7 in the winter before 2013 spring training. But he was dropped to #14 in the offseason before 2014 spring camps opened, and was at #13 a year later, in 2015.
And the handbook had Fulmer as the #1 prospect in the Tigers organization after they acquired him, in the winter before 2016 spring training.
Michael's baseball smarts are off the charts. He’s always asking the right questions about different scenarios.
In 2015, Fulmer was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, leading the league in ERA (2.14) and strikeout rate (8.9 per nine inning) while ranking fourth in WHIP (1.10).
August 8, 2015: Michael has not had an easy path to the big leagues. Since hurling over 100 innings in his first full professional season, Fulmer has seen his past two seasons end early with injuries. 2015 has thus far been a different story. He may have changed teams at the trade deadline, but the results have looked the same.
Since his draft by the Mets 2011, the 6 foot 3, 200-pound righty has made all but one professional appearance as a stating pitcher. Due to injuries and durability, starting with a bum knee in 2013 and ending with bone spurs in his elbow in 2014, some began to feel that Fulmer was heading for a future in the bullpen.
Michael has certainly made a case to be a back end of the rotation arm with his 2015 performance. An impressive 23.8% strikeout rate paired with a 6.6% walk rate has eliminated some doubts as to whether he could improve his early career command problems.
Fulmer was still widely considered a top 20 Mets prospect, but with the bevy of successful young arms ahead of him, he became trade bait. Fulmer was part of the deal that brought Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers to the Mets. His success continued with his new organization.
Is Fulmer’s stuff good enough to stick as a starter in the big leagues? His arsenal seems to be deep enough to stick. It seems Fulmer is MLB bound, being most likely a year away. His health seems to be the strongest determinant in his future because his two full seasons have been rather impressive. Right now, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t a spot waiting for Fulmer in Detroit’s future rotation. (W Cavadi - SB Nation - August 8, 2015)
During the winter before 2016 spring training, Michael worked out at the guy five times per week. He came to camp in great shape with his arm and with his body and stamina.
In January 2016, Fulmer got married.
"It's kind of a relief, stress getting off my shoulders," Michael said. "I know me and my wife were anxious for the day, we were dating for the seven years prior. The wedding was a great time, everything we dreamed of, as well as the honeymoon. That was awesome — we went down to the Bahamas. She knows — she's my biggest supporter — it's time to get into a groove and get ready for Spring Training. She supports me 110 percent and I appreciate that."
His high school friend and teammate, Brian Anderson, of the Marlins organization, was Fulmer's best man.
2016 Season: Fulmer burst into the Majors, compiling a season that has made him a leading contender for AL Rookie of the Year. It also placed him firmly among the game’s top “graduating” prospects from 2016, according to Baseball America. Fulmer ranks No. 9 on the list, which ranks the game’s top players who no longer qualify as prospects after surpassing the rookie major-league minimums in innings pitched (50) or at-bats (130).
“Fulmer made the jump to the Majors after just three Triple-A starts and quickly became the leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year,” wrote Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser. “His mid-90s fastball and slider were excellent as predicted. Opposing batters hit just .233 and .206 against those two pitches, respectively. But his changeup played much better than expected. That development helped turn him into a front-of-the-rotation stalwart with three strong pitches, including two secondary pitches that miss bats.”
The rankings aren’t based on first-season performances, but on their “updated” Baseball America prospect grade, which “mimics the 20-80 scouting scale and includes a risk assessment.”
Fulmer’s first season, in which he went 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 159 innings pitched, bumped up his prospect grade from 55 to 60 with “medium risk,” according to Baseball America. A 60 translates into a No. 2/No. 3 starter, according to the publication. Medium risk means there is “still some work to do to turn tools into Major-League caliber skills, but fairly polished player.”
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager topped the list with an updated prospect grade of 75 (safe). Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez ranks No. 4 with a 70 grade (medium). (The Detroit News/October 2016)
In 2016, The Sporting News named Fulmer its AL Rookie of the Year, as voted on by a panel of Major League players.
November 9, 2016: Fulmer was selected as the AL's most Outstanding Rookie via the 2016 Players Choice Award.
Michael Fulmer's 2016 offseason, as described in this profile in the Detroit Free Press:
"He was in backyards around the Oklahoma City area digging ditches and changing sewer lines. Replacing old Orangeburg pipes with new PVC pipes. In basements exchanging water heaters, in kitchens replacing sinks and faucets, in bathrooms fixing leaky toilets.
Yes, after the first week of October, the former first-round draft pick is a plumber. This offseason is, apparently, Fulmer's second as a plumber — he started working for his friend's uncle's business after the 2015 season, which Fulmer spent mostly in Double-A. According to him, it's pretty good preparation for baseball: "Digging out 6-foot ditches all the time and shoveling quite a bit. So, it's a different type of workout, and it helps before I start working out in the offseason." (Ben Cosman -Free Press - Nov. 2016)
Fulmer likes to commit to something and finish it. He likes to see tangible results from improvements. And he likes using the left side of his brain. He loved math as a kid. Later, when younger brother Austin had trouble with a calculus problem, he'd text Michael, who would respond from whatever tiny minor league town he was in.
"He's always liked figuring out why," said their dad, J.P., who is a petroleum engineer. "Michael's always had that problem-solving mentality." (Stephanie Epstein - Sports Illustrated - 1/23/2017)
In 2016, Fulmer won the BWAA American League Rookie of the Year award.
2017: Fulmer represented the USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Feb 2017: After earning AL Rookie of the Year in 2016, it's hard to believe that Fulmer would change much of anything during his offseason. But the righthander altered some of his training methods in the hopes of adding more strength and explosive movement to his lower body.
Fulmer, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, said his trainer wanted him to focus more on posterior chain training that will strengthen his legs, hamstrings, hips, calves, back and other related areas.
"I could tell you this offseason I worked out probably the hardest I ever have of any offseason before," Fulmer said. "We did a lot of explosive training and flexibility and a little bit of strength stuff. I'm a firm believer of staying loose, staying flexible and combining that with the strengthening phase and trying to mend the two together."
According to Fulmer, the training was also designed to increase his endurance to help him stay strong throughout the season.
"It was based around doing high repetition with lower weights," Fulmer said. "And then we'd go on the big rehab treadmill and work on everything. We did sprints and backpedaling and then more sprints, and then we would push the sleds."
Fulmer said he usually tends to try to strengthen his whole body and work in some explosive training after that, but this offseason he and his trainer made the change. Fulmer doesn't throw weighted balls because he's comfortable with his current shoulder routine
"It was a different way of doing things, and I feel good and I feel stronger," Fulmer said. "The goal is always to get better and learn how to do things better and do what it takes to stay healthy and stay on the field."
Don't expect Fulmer to take offense to things on social media, however. He says it just goes in one ear and out the other.
"People have their rights and their freedom of speech," Fulmer said. "I just try to stay levelheaded and maintain my eyes through my tunnel." (C Long - MLB.com - Feb 18, 2017)
"Fulmer's very mild-mannered," Ausmus said of Fulmer. "He doesn't get rattled by the game. In fact, he's one of the few pitchers that'll joke around in the dugout in one of his starts. You'll see him crack a smile or joke. You don't see that very often." (Jordan Horrobin - MLB.com -June 29, 2017)
July 2, 2017: Fulmer headed to the All-Star Game in his first full Major League season. And the reigning AL Rookie of the Year is hoping for a chance to pitch in the Midsummer Classic.
In 2015, Michael was buried amidst the talented crop of young pitchers in the Mets' farm system, hoping for a chance to pitch in the big leagues.
In 2016, Fulmer was simply hoping to pitch in a playoff race at the end of the season, making his case that an innings limit shouldn't stop him. Now, Fulmer is headed to the All-Star Game in his first full Major League season. And he is hoping for a chance to pitch in the Midsummer Classic.
"It's a blessing. It truly is," said Fulmer, the only Tiger headed to the 2017 Midsummer Classic in Miami.
"He's earned it," fellow Tigers starter Justin Verlander said. "He's been one of the best pitchers in the league since he came up last year. Couldn't be more excited for him."
"I didn't think much into it until manager Brad Ausmus told me," Fulmer said. "But just to have the respect and votes from my peers and coaches and analysts and whoever else voted, it's an honor to be able to represent the Tigers."
Said Ausmus: "He's been by far our most consistent pitcher. In 2016, I thought he kind of deserved to go, but he wasn't a well-known name. This year, everyone in baseball is aware of who he is after Rookie of the Year, and he's picked up right where he left off, so he's more than deserving." (Beck - mlb.com - 7/3/17)
July 20, 2019: Michael walked into the Tigers' clubhouse with a full beard and glasses.
“I’m back,” he shouted into a mostly empty room. While the midsummer routine has clearly settled in around the Tigers, their former American League Rookie of the Year Award winner was missing it. While he would have loved to say he was in town for a milestone checkpoint in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, he admitted his reasons for traveling in from Oklahoma were more mundane.
“Basically I missed it,” he said. “I wanted to get back up here and see all these guys, just try to have fun for a couple days.”
He’ll be in Erie next weekend to be part of the Double-A team’s 25th anniversary celebration. That doesn’t mean he’s necessarily bored with nothing to do. His daily routine, he said, depends on how early in the morning his three-month-old son, Miles, wakes up. His rehab work includes shoulder and forearm strengthening, resistance work, and a lot of cardio.
“I’m trying to get on the bike a lot,” he said. “My wife’s got a Peloton. She tries to compete with me. Sometimes she beats me, I’m not going to lie. But everything’s going well. I feel strong. I feel stronger than before.”
His routine does not include plumbing work, his old offseason job when he used to be back home.
“I told my boss," he said. "He wasn’t happy. I actually had to call him to come change my hot water tank the other day, which is bad. I could’ve saved a lot of money. He charged me full price, too.”
Fulmer's initial timetable of 14 to 16 months of recovery remains on track since his surgery in March, meaning he could be back sometime in the first half of next season. But he isn’t going to push it, preferring to make sure he’s healthy after two years of various injuries.
“Right now we’re not really looking forward that far,” Fulmer said. “Just trying to get strength built and maybe play catch in October or November-ish.”
For now, he’s trying to look on the bright side.
“Once my son was born, it was really something special to be able to be there,” he said. “Because he came two weeks early at 11:30 at night, and the team would’ve been in Detroit. So I would’ve missed his birth completely, and then I would’ve had to not to see him for about three months after that, and my wife and him would’ve come up to Detroit right about this time. So if there’s a silver lining in anything, it was truly a blessing to be able to be there for that.” (J Beck - MLB.com - July 20, 2019)
June 2011: The Mets chose Fulmer in the supplemental portion of the first round of the draft, out of Deer Creek High School in Edmond, Oklahoma. He signed for $937,500 via scout Steve Gossett.
July 31, 2015: The Tigers sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets for RHP Luis Cessa and Fulmer.
Feb 15, 2019: The Tigers won their arbitration case against Fulmer. He will be paid $2.8 million, in accordance with the club's proposal. Fulmer had filed for $3.4 million.
Jan 7, 2020: Fulmer and the Tigers agreed to terms pre-arbitration on a one-year contract, avoiding a potential hearing. Fulmer will make $2.8 million, the same salary he made in 2019.
Jan 12, 2021: The Tigers and Fulmer avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.1 million.
March 23, 2022: The Tigers and Fulmer avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4.9 million.
- Aug 2, 2022: The Twins acquired RHP Michael Fulmer from the Tigers for RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long.
|Birth City:||Oklahoma City, OK|
|Draft:||Mets #1 (suppl.) - 2011 - Out of high school (OK)|
|2019||AL||TIGERS - TJ -IL||$2,800.00|
Fulmer has an exploding 94-98 mph 4-seam FASTBALL that has natural tailing action, making it difficult to square up on. And he gets good sink on his 93-97 mph 2-seam SINKER. He also has a swing-and-miss 87-91 mph power SLIDER with two-plane tilt that gets a 60 grade (same 60 grade as his fastball).
In July 2017, Michael added a CURVEBALL, but only used it 12 times the rest of the year. He also has an 85-89 mph CHANGEUP that has become average (for a 50 grade, flashing 60) after 2016 improvements made with Tigers pitching coach Rich Dubee.
His slider has such depth and power that it is a swing-and-miss pitch to lefties and righties alike. It is a legitimate put-away pitch. (Spring, 2018)
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 37.1% of the time; Sinker 19.7% of the time; Change 17.6% of the time; and Slider 25.6% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 22.4% of the time; Sinker 37% of the time; Change 19% of the time; Slider 21.1%; and Curve .5% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 25.5% of the time, his Sinker 35.5%; Change14.3%; and Slider 24.8% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 96.6 mph, Sinker 96.4, Change 88.6, and Slider 86.8 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: Did not play
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 29.5% of the time, his Sinker 32.6%; Change 9.3%; Slider 15.9%; Curve 5%, and Cutter 7.7% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 93.3 mph, Sinker 93.3, Change 86.9, Slider 86.9, Curve 78, and Cutter 89.3 mph.
Michael's arm works well. He throws strikes and keeps the ball down. He works to both sides of the plate, displaying control and command. He gets an above-average grade of 55 for his control.
"The one thing I need to emphasize is fastball command. If I can establish my fastball, especially inside, I think I can open up the outer part of the plate more," Fulmer said.
Fulmer closed his hip more in his delivery to help his release point become more consistent. Scouts are mixed as to whether he'll refine his delivery enough to develop more than fringy command. He presently throws slightly across his body and off a stiff front side.
He's become more consistent with his ability to repeat his mechanics and release point.
Michael is described as a guy who doesn't like hitters and pitches 'mean'.
People who have watched Fulmer pitch often use the word "aggressive" to describe him. He relentlessly attacks the opposition, almost daring them to catch up to his heater.
His lower half tends to move to the plate faster than his arm, meaning he's relying on his excellent arm speed more than getting his entire body and motion in sync.
Fulmer has learned to pitch to contact, because it works. He uses good pitch sequences. And he gets a lot of groundballs early in the count.
"I don't want to miss bats," Michael decided, "I want to miss barrels."
He started challenging himself to get more first-pitch outs. He learned to appreciate a first-pitch out as much as a strikeout.
As of 2016, no Tigers pitcher, or at least none since 1913, had thrown three consecutive outings of at least six scoreless innings and allowed three or fewer hits. Fulmer did it, and he would've had three straight outings of seven-plus innings if not for the lopsided nature of the June 5 11-0 win over the Blue Jays. The latter would've put him with Clayton Kershaw in 2015 and Pedro Martinez in 2002 as the only pitchers to do that since 2000.
Just two Tigers rookies have pitched longer scoreless streaks than the 22.1 innings Fulmer has going. John Hiller holds the record with 28.2 in August 1967, followed by Victor Santos' 25 in early 2001. The only run Fulmer has allowed in his last four starts was Evan Longoria's homer May 21. The rookie has allowed 11 hits over 28.1 innings in his last four starts, walking seven and striking out 27.
"I try not to look at it," Fulmer said. "I try to just go out there and keep my team in the ballgame and ultimately get a win." He's doing that. In 2015 at this point, the 23-year-old righthander was still another name in the Mets' farm system. Not only is Fulmer now a frontline starter, he's one of the biggest reasons for hope that the Tigers will be contenders this summer.
"He really has been dominant," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's been our best pitcher, probably, over the last 3 1/2 weeks, whatever the stretch is. I don't know that I would've predicted it from a young pitcher like that coming up, but he's done an excellent job. To me, the big thing has been his poise and his ability to throw the changeup. The pitch that he was supposedly working on this year has come around much quicker than expected."
The poise is in his nature. The changeup was in his arm, but it took his second-year catcher to get him to throw it." The big thing I told him," James McCann said, "is, 'Look, you feel comfortable with your slider, you feel comfortable with your fastball. We're going to find situations early in the game to use your changeup where you can't necessarily get hurt. You can find a feel for it and throw it in different situations where you're not going to give up a big hit, just to get that feel.' And I think it took him one time to throw it, and he got the feel."
"Sometimes you have to tip your cap," Barney said. (Beck - MLB.com - 6/6/16)
June 18, 2016: Fulmer recorded the second-longest scoreless streak by a rookie pitcher in the last 45 years, according to Elias Sports Bureau, behind Fernando Valenzuela (35 innings in 1981). His streak is noteworthy, not only in terms of his service time, but in sheer difficulty for any pitcher, rookie or veteran alike. It is the longest scoreless innings streak by any Tigers pitcher since 1961.
But a bigger feat was his historic 10-start stretch from May 21 through July 17, 2016. Michael compiled a 7-1 record with a 0.83 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. According to Elias, since the Major Leagues began keeping track of earned runs, just over 100 years ago, no other pitcher has compiled an ERA that low over a span of 10 successive starts in the season of his Major League debut.
Michael has conviction for the game plan that is discussed, so you may never see him shake off his catcher. He buys into the plan fully.
In 2016, Fulmer allowed the 4th-fewest extra-base hits per 9 innings in the American League. His heavy-sinking 2-seamer keeps the ball on the ground; his slider gets swings-and-misses and his changeup was the 6th-hardest to hit in the Majors.
July 4, 2017: The 0-2 pitch to Hunter Pence with two outs in the top of the eighth inning looked good and Michael Fulmer wanted it. Pence checked his swing and it was ruled a ball.
Fulmer jumped and did full 360-degree turn. It was his last batter and the third out of the inning. He would have walked off the mound with a 5-3 lead and another strong eight-inning outing. But the reason he wanted that particular pitch so badly — it was a curveball, the fourth curveball he'd thrown in a big-league game.
“It was a good one, I thought,” Fulmer said afterward.
Fulmer, who would get Pence to ground out on a change-up on the next pitch, is in the process of adding the curveball to his arsenal.
“I’ve been working on it during the last few bullpens now,” he said. “I’m trying to break it out slowly. Alex Avila (his catcher) told me afterward, he said he has more confidence in it now, so he might start calling it a little more.” (Chris McCosky - The Detroit News)
2020 Season: It’s not that he’s ungrateful to have made 10 starts in what was expected to be a partial season for him before the pandemic shutdown allowed him to be ready for Opening Day. He was able to find a routine after missing all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery
But the numbers were admittedly ugly, from an 8.78 ERA to 45 hits and eight home runs allowed over 27 2/3 innings. He was limited to three innings a start by design, but he completed three innings in just half of his outings. (Jason Beck - Jan. 14, 2021)
March 16, 2021: "Today was all about different sequencing, throwing the curveball and the changeup behind it and trying to mix that way," said Fulmer. "I've never really pitched that way, and [pitching coach Chris] Fetter's done an amazing job talking about all this stuff."
"Today was all about different sequencing, throwing the curveball and the changeup behind it and trying to mix that way," said Fulmer. "I've never really pitched that way, and [pitching coach Chris] Fetter's done an amazing job talking about all this stuff."
It's the same transition other Detroit pitchers have faced. His neighbor in the Tigers' clubhouse, Daniel Norris, made the transition a couple years ago and developed a nasty changeup for an out pitch. But Fulmer is doing it while trying to hold onto a rotation spot in a Detroit camp cluttered with potential starters.
"I feel like I'm competing for a job," Fulmer said. "We've got so much depth in the starting pitching department. I want to be able to earn a spot. Nothing's given in this organization." (J Beck - MLB.com - March 16, 2021)
Fulmer worked a ton to get back to this point where he can pitch. Now he has to learn, on the mound, how to pitch with what he has.
The 97-98 mph fastball that powered Fulmer to the AL Rookie of the Year five years ago is not there. It could come back as he moves along in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, when many pitchers who undergo the procedure begin to feel more like their pre-injury selves. Until it does, and in case it doesn't, he needs to lean more on changeups, sliders and curveballs.
"Let's be honest, I'm a different pitcher than what I was a few years ago," Fulmer said. "There's no denying that, and I'm trying to learn kind of on the fly. Just trying to learn sequencing and the ins and outs and ups and downs of different quadrants of the strike zone that I'm usually not working on."
August 28, 2012: Fulmer was on the D.L. the last week of the season with a left shin contusion.
March 12, 2013: Michael underwent surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. He began the season on the D.L., spending most of the season sidelined. He made his season debut in July, but by August 24, 2013, Fulmer was back on the D.L. with more knee trouble (swelling).
August 21, 2014: Fulmer was on the D.L. He ultimately required surgery to remove a bone spur and chips from his right elbow. He remained behind in 2015 spring training when full-season teams broke camp this before joining the EL Binghamton Mets in May 2015.
Aug 1-14, 2017: Fulmer was on the DL with right elbow ulnar neuritis.
September 10, 2017: Michael still was suffering with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow.
September 11, 2017: Fulmer scheduled ulnar nerve transposition surgery in his right elbow to eliminate the numbness and tingling that had been increasingly bothered him this season.
Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery on Sept. 12, in Pensacola, Fla., after examining Fulmer's arm the day before. Fulmer is expected to take three to fourth months to recover, but he should be ready in time for 2018 Spring Training.
Fulmer should be fine to resume pitching at Spring Training 2018 after surgery on his elbow. His offseason plumbing career, however, might be in jeopardy.
"The boss isn't happy," Fulmer said. "It may be a good source of rehab. I'm not saying digging or anything, but maybe just kind of handling the tools and picking up some weighted stuff, just moving around." Fulmer would have to be cleared for that first. "We started rehab the day after surgery," Fulmer said. "We're already starting to straighten it out, bend it, do some wrist stuff and forearm stuff. Robbie [Williams], our [physical therapy] guy, said I'm way further than what I should be. He said it's as quickly as he's seen in his years doing PT.
July 20-Aug 24, 2018: Fulmer was on the DL with left oblique strain.
September 18-Oct 29, 2018: Fulmer was on the DL with a torn meniscus in his right knee and will undergo season-ending surgery.
March 23-Oct 31, 2019: Fulmer was on the DL with Tommy John surgery on his right elbow after an MRI revealed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament.
March 14, 2019: The Tigers announced that they were shutting down Fulmer indefinitely.
"He took a step back to refine his lower-body mechanics," manager Ron Gardenhire said during spring training. "We have no timetable on when he's going to get back on the mound."
April 2019: Michael underwent Tommy John surgery.
Feb 12-July, 23, 2020: Fulmer was on the IL recovering from TJ surgery.
June 3-14, 2021: Fulmer was on the IL with right shoulder strain.
July 2, 2021: Fulmer was in Dallas for a visit with Dr. Keith Meister, whose exam confirmed a previous diagnosis of a muscular injury in his neck rather than anything in his shoulder. Fulmer will begin a rehab program in Lakeland, Fla.
June 27-July 27, 2021: Fulmer was on the IL with right cervical spine strain.