The Detroit Tigers announced Friday morning that the team's top prospect, pitcher Michael Fulmer, will start the year as part of the Toledo Mud Hens' rotation. Fulmer, the Double-A Eastern League's Pitcher of the Year in 2015, is currently ranked the 53rd prospect in baseball by MLB.com. Fulmer had impressed thus far in spring training, striking out seven and allowing five runs, allowing just a .214 batting average to hitters in 7 1/3 innings work.
While the move isn't a surprise, there had been ongoing speculation that the team might consider Fulmer for a role in the bullpen. Instead, by starting Fulmer off in Toledo, the Tigers can keep their prize prospect stretched out and pitching a starter's workload. Moving to minor league camp will make it easier to get Fulmer the innings he needs to prepare as a starter as the Tigers' rotation begins pitching deeper into games.
Fulmer's dominance at the Double-A level last season sent him shooting up prospect lists. He continued his superb 2015 season with the Erie SeaWolves after the Tigers acquired him in the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the New York Mets at the trade deadline.
The hard throwing righthander is the first domino to fall in the ongoing competition for the fifth starter's role in the Tigers' rotation. Frontrunner Daniel Norris, along with Shane Greene and Matt Boyd, will continue making their case in the coming weeks.
Anibal Sanchez is set to make his first spring start this Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies. If all goes well with Sanchez, the Tigers' rotation should begin to take its final shape with just over two weeks remaining before the start of the 2016 season.