A fun what-if question: To what lengths would the Mets, mired in misfortune as they are, do to have Dylan Bundy pitch for their organization?
Well, the answer may be moot: New York has its Bundy -- only his name is Michael Fulmer.
Heard of him? Fulmer is also 19, also uses his right arm to deliver high-90-mph heat, also emerged from an Oklahoma high school and also was selected early in the 2011 Draft. In fact, Fulmer was tabbed 44th overall, not long after in-state rivals Bundy (fourth overall) and Archie Bradley (seventh), who are now No. 8 and No. 17, respectively, among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects.
As one National League scouting director who evaluated Fulmer as a junior and senior said, "Not a bad thing to fall in behind Bundy and Bradley."
"He has the kind of pitches and body type that fits the top of the rotation. He's a little bit behind those guys in terms of overall polish and command."
Which is interesting because when MiLB.com asked Fulmer, the Mets' eighth-ranked prospect, what sets him apart from his fellow statesman -- a group that includes '11 prep picks Adrian Houser, Mason Hope and Clayton Blackburn -- Fulmer said this: "I am one of the more mature high school guys from Oklahoma."
"Bundy has done well. Bradley is doing well too. We all compete with each other. We all know each other pretty well. I got to represent the west side of the state, and they're representing the east side."
And how exactly is he representin'? In his first full season, Fulmer has compiled a 3.34 ERA and a 32-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio through eight starts for the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats. (Right-handed hitters are batting .153 against him.)
"Walks are considerably down this year, which is great," he said, addressing our scout's lone concern. "More strikeouts, more pounding the zone, so it's already progressed."
MiLB.com asked Fulmer to describe and grade each of the five the pitches he employs. (His grade is based on a scout's traditional 20-80 scale, 50 being the Major League average.) Here is Fulmer, in his own words.
Pitch one: Four-seam fastball
: I throw the four-seam and two-seam half and half, depending on the day, depending on how each feels in the bullpen. I like to throw the four-seam to the extension side of the plate -- the outside part of the plate -- to righties.
Grip: Basic, in the horseshoe.
Speed: Low to mid 90s. Have reached 97, up to 98 once. First inning, coming in the game, I attack the zone with the fastball and then later in the game I hump up when I need to.
Grade: 55-60. I haven't had the control yet, throwing it where I want to, but it's getting there. I'm only a 19-year-old kid, early into my career. I'm looking to learn how to actually pitch, and when I do command both sides of the plate, I can start amping up a little more.
Pitch two: Two-seam fastball
: I like to throw the two-seamer to act as a sinker inside to righties, start it in and make it run even more. I'm still trying to learn how to get it to the extension side with a two-seamer and backdoor some right-handed hitters with it.
Grip: On top, in between the laces, fingers together more than anything.
Speed: My two-seam doesn't have too much in a drop of velocity. Low to mid 90s.
Grade: 55-60. I think it'll get better as the year progresses. I need to develop it more into a sinker to get a lot more groundball outs.
Pitch three: Changeup
: I never really had a changeup in high school, and I learned one with our pitching coordinator, Ron Romanick, and Frank Viola, our pitching coach here in Savannah, and they taught me in Spring Training. It never came easy, but I threw it more and more, and now I'm throwing it a handful of times per game. It's been working out well.
Our scout's take: When I saw him in high school, he only used it in the bullpen but didn't use it in the game. His arm action was such -- and his delivery didn't require a lot of effort -- that I really felt like with time and throwing it, it should develop into a good pitch for him.
Purpose: It makes my fastball more lively.
Grip: The way I grip all my pitches, I kind of choke everything. I don't really have a loose hand, so we wanted a changeup that doesn't rely on the strength of the grip. They taught me a three-finger approach -- with my ring finger, my middle finger and my pointer finger -- and holding onto the seams and putting pressure on the side with my thumb to make it tail away from left-handed hitters or put it on the bottom to have the bottom drop out of it.
Speed: It's a little fast right now. It's in that 85-to-88 range. I'd like to slow it down. It's got good movement right now, and that's what I'm looking for.
Grade: 50-55. It needs some work. I have been throwing it more and more each start. It'll be a great pitch for me in my career.
Pitch four: Curveball
: The first breaking pitch I learned. I threw a lot in high school, my freshman, sophomore and junior year at Deer Creek High School. It was like a big, looping 12-to-6 curveball, and I have gotten away from it here since my senior year in high school and pro ball and have gone to the slider as my strikeout pitch.
Purpose: It's a show-me pitch, early in the count, if we've got a first pitch to an aggressive hacker, I will throw that curveball to get a groundout. Just to get it over the plate, 0-1 count, 1-0 count.
Speed: Usually 77-to-80 range.
Pitch five: Slider
: I picked it up before my senior year of high school, and it's been working great for me.
Purpose: I can use it as a strike pitch. I can put some more tilt on it as a two-strike pitch. It's basically been my strikeout pitch since last year. It gives that right-to-left look as opposed to the up-and-down look of my curveball.
Grip: Just like my four-seam but with a tilt of the ball so my fingers are diagonal along the horseshoe instead of straight up like a four-seam.
Speed: Anywhere from 82, 83 to 86.
Grade: 60-65. I throw it like a fastball, it's late-breaking and get a lot of swings and misses with it. All five of my pitches need work, but right now I like where they all are and, when I better the command, I think all five will be good for my career.