Dax Fulton had an idea of what it would take to reach the next level of his professional baseball career.
To make it happen in 2022, the former Mustang Bronco knew improvements were needed in two key areas of his game.
After a difficult start to the season, Fulton solicited advice from inside and outside of the Miami Marlins organization. He spoke with coaches within the Marlins system and with University of Oklahoma coach Skip Johnson.
Not long after, the 6-foot-7, 225-pound lefty started to find his form.
“The goal was to get to Double-A this season,” Fulton said. “I knew I needed to start working hard mechanically and mentally. Right after the All-Star break it started to come together. Everything felt good and slowly but surely, I was able to string together some good starts.”
From July 8 on, Fulton gave up no more than three earned runs in any of his 11 remaining starts or appearances. He saw his earned run average drop from 5.30 at the end of April to 4.07 following his final start for the High-A Beloit Sky Carp on Aug. 20.
Fulton got the call he had hoped for going into the season and on Aug. 27, the 2020 40th overall pick made his first start at Double-A for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He gave up one earned run over five innings and struck out five against the Montgomery Biscuits.
“It was awesome,” Fulton said. “I immediately called my parents and told them. We were excited and happy because it felt like the hard work was paying off.
“It was also cool to know the Marlins had enough trust in me to promote me. That was a really good feeling and right there I knew I wanted to make it look like the right decision.”
Dax Fulton, current member of the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos, delivers a pitch for Mustang during his junior season. Fulton is currently ranked as the No. 8 overall prospect in the Miami Marlins organization by MLB.com. (Photo by Shelly Holinsworth / Freelance Action Photography)
Fulton was outstanding at Double-A, recording a 2.57 ERA and 30 strikeouts over 21 innings. He made four appearances, including three starts, and allowed just 14 hits.
The 21-year-old prospect also made his postseason debut, allowing one hit and one walk over six innings while striking out 13 batters against Montgomery. He was dealt a no-decision but helped lead the Blue Wahoos to a 1-0 win in the Division Series clincher.
The Blue Wahoos went on to defeat the Tennessee Smokies for the Southern League championship.
“It was a really cool experience,” Fulton said. “I just wanted to give my team a chance to win.
“Another great thing about it was a lot of the guys I played with at High-A came up, too. Overall, I have really enjoyed Pensacola. It’s awesome… higher quality of baseball, and a lot of things to do.”
Fulton, who currently ranks as the No. 8 overall prospect in the Miami organization, says it was nice to extend his workload this season. He missed his senior year at MHS due to Tommy John surgery and was limited in his first pro season.
The former High School Perfect Game All-American pitched 124.1 regular and postseason innings combined in 2022 – up from 78.1 in 2021.
“They let me go a little bit this year,” Fulton said. “Last year I was trying to get my feet under me and get used to pro ball. I was also trying to stay healthy after the surgery.
“It was a lot more volume and I thought I handled it really well. My body and arm feel great and most importantly, I’m happy with where I’m at.”
Fulton says a stronger workout routine and becoming more well-rounded with conditioning drills was key to pitching more innings this season. He wasn’t sure how everything would work out after being presented with the game plan, but quickly committed.
“Change isn’t always what you want to hear,” he said. “But I was lying in bed thinking about what’s best for me and that was it. Accepting it was the first part.”
Fulton slowly started seeing gains. The organization gave him a blueprint and he completely bought in, hitting the weight room three times a week while running more and focusing on arm care.
“The Marlins believe in long distance after pitching and sprint work leading up to the start to be more explosive,” he said. “It’s little things like that where I can see the difference. That, plus learning how to strengthen the muscles in and around my shoulder and back.”
Former Mustang Bronco and current Pensacola Blue Wahoo Dax Fulton signs autographs after a game this season. Fulton helped lead the Blue Wahoos to the 2022 Southern League championship after being called up to the Miami Marlins Double-A affiliate. (Photo by Daniel Venn / Pensacola Blue Wahoos)
The former Bronco has also taken every chance to learn.
He made it through the transition from high school to pro ball rather smoothly and now is trying to soak in as much knowledge as possible.
“I try to listen more and not talk as much,” Fulton said. “It’s amazing how much these coaches and players know about the game. It’s a cool mix of guys from different places with different backgrounds… There is plenty to learn.”
Fulton says his teammates immediately accepted him and helped show him the ropes.
“It’s an earned trust and earned respect kind of thing,” he said. “If you work hard, they treat you like you’re one of their own.”
At the end of the day, Fulton reflects and doesn’t take for granted the fact he’s living out a childhood dream. It’s easy for him to rattle off all of the top prospect hitters he has already faced or seen in his young career.
He also enjoys pointing out his favorite ballparks and cities and what makes them unique. The tall lefty thoroughly loves playing the game and the thrill he gets when he stands 60 feet, six inches away from home plate.
“Sometimes I still feel like I’m a kid.”