Detroit manager Brad Ausmus wondered aloud Friday about Michael Fulmer's case for the All-Star game. Fulmer didn't make it, but his 9-2 record and 2.11 ERA certainly deserve mentioning.
"At that pace, he'd be in the Cy Young discussion if he kept it up for a year," Ausmus said.
For now, Fulmer will have to settle for being a top candidate for American League Rookie of the Year honors. In a season where not everything has gone as planned for the Tigers, he's been perhaps the biggest reason they're still very much in the mix for a postseason spot. When Detroit acquired Fulmer last year in the deal that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets, the Tigers were hoping he could make a significant impact, but as with many prospects, there was no way to know it would happen so quickly.
"We saw him in spring for the first time and we knew he had electric stuff. He just had a little command issue in spring," teammate Jordan Zimmermann said. "He came up, he's been throwing strikes and now he's got a changeup to go with his fastball and slider that are both 'plus' pitches. He's been dominant the whole time. He's fun to watch."
Detroit's rotation has been in a tough spot of late because of Zimmermann's injury problems and Anibal Sanchez's ineffectiveness. Fulmer, however, has been outstanding since making his debut in late April. Since May 27, he's made eight starts and gone 6-1, allowing only three earned runs in 50 1/3 innings.
"A lot of young guys come up and they're throwers and not really pitchers. They have the velocity but they don't really know where it's going," Zimmermann said. "I feel like he's got the velocity and knows where it's going. Usually the control comes later in your career. It seems like he's got it."
Here are a few other rookies who have impressed during the first half of the season:
COREY SEAGER and KENTA MAEDA, DODGERS
Seager was impressive in a shorter stint with the Dodgers last year, and the talented shortstop has lived up to expectations in 2016, hitting .296 with 17 home runs and 41 RBIs.
Maeda turned 28 five days after making his major league debut in April. The Dodgers signed him to an incentive-laden, eight-year contract in the hope that his success in Japan would translate to the Los Angeles rotation. He's done just fine so far, posting a 7-6 record with a 3.07 ERA.
TREVOR STORY, ROCKIES
Story was quite the phenomenon when he hit seven home runs in his first six big league games back in April. Needless to say, the Colorado shortstop's pace has slowed a bit, but his batting line — .263 with 21 homers and 57 RBIs — is still pretty remarkable for a 23-year-old. A note of caution: He's also on pace for about 200 strikeouts.
Story, Seager and St. Louis' Aledmys Diaz have turned this into quite a season for rookie shortstops in the National League.
SEUNG HWAN OH, CARDINALS
The 33-year-old South Korea native came to St. Louis with quite a reputation — he led the Japanese Central League in saves in 2014 and '15 and had earned the nicknames "Final Boss" and "Stone Buddha." He's already appeared in 44 games for the Cardinals, posting a 1.62 ERA.
JUNIOR GUERRA, BREWERS
Guerra bounced all over the minors and even played professionally in Italy before finally making his big league debut for the Chicago White Sox at age 30 last year. He pitched only four innings for the White Sox in 2015, and Milwaukee claimed him off waivers in October.
The right-hander has come out of nowhere to go 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 12 starts for the Brewers this year.
NOMAR MAZARA, RANGERS
A 21-year-old outfielder playing regularly for a first-place team, Mazara is hitting .283 with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs. Mazara was 16 when the Rangers signed the Dominican prospect and gave him a $5 million bonus. He's progressed quickly enough to help Texas withstand injuries to Shin-Soo Choo and Josh Hamilton this year.