One year ago around this time, Kyle Funkhouser's story was one of disappointment. The 35th overall pick in the 2015 Draft had decided to go back to school at the University of Louisville, only to drop to the fourth round following his senior year.
Wednesday's story was the complete opposite.
Detroit's No. 6 prospect tossed his first career shutout, allowing four hits and a walk while fanning three over seven innings for Class A Advanced Lakeland in a 1-0 win at Clearwater in the second game of the doubleheader. It marked his first win over five starts in the Florida State League.
Funkhouser (1-1) only allowed two baserunners to reach scoring position in the gem -- Cord Sandberg after a walk and a single in the second inning and Jan Hernandez on a single and a sacrifice bunt in the fifth. Of the 21 outs he recorded, 11 came on the ground. He threw 96 pitches, 61 for strikes.
The 23-year-old right-hander sports a 1.72 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, 34 strikeouts and six walks over 31 1/3 innings since his promotion from Class A West Michigan on May 17. Between both levels, he's posted a 2.44 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP with 83 strikeouts and 19 walks over 62 2/3 innings. Entering Wednesday, no one else in the Tigers organization had more than 69 strikeouts this season.
This level of success might have been difficult to predict a year ago, when MLB.com ranked Funkhouser as the No. 58 prospect in the 2016 Draft. It didn't help that his ERA went from 3.20 as a junior at Louisville to 3.86 over 93 1/3 innings as a senior, in part because of control issues that saw him average 4.5 BB/9. He fell all the way to No. 115 with the Tigers and signed for $750,000. According to Baseball America, Funkhouser said in May that his fastball velocity had jumped back to the mid-90s with Tigers director of player development Dave Owen adding, "he was up to 97 (mph)." That combined with his three other offerings (curveball, slider, changeup) have led to his success so far this season, and he could lead to a tougher test at Double-A Erie before the summer is out.
Second baseman David Gonzalez doubled and scored the Flying Tigers' only run to help give Funkhouser the victory Wednesday. Lakeland also took Game 1, 5-1. Sandy Baez (2-6) earned the win in that one after allowing one earned run on three hits and four walks while fanning nine over six frames.