After the 2013 season was complete and it was known that the Astros would have the #1 overall pick for a third straight year in 2014, the general consensus around the industry was that they would take North Carolina State lefty Carlos Rodon with the top overall pick. However, these things don't always work out in the manner that's expected, and as the draft got closer and closer to happening, it was no longer the guarantee it had previously been. On draft night, Rodon did not end up being the #1 overall pick, but rather ended up falling to the White Sox at #3. Despite that, he was recently ranked by me as the top fantasy prospect from the 2014 draft, and #18 overall right now. What can he do for your fantasy team, and when could we see him?
Rodon was drafted out of high school by the Brewers in the 16th round, but did not sign, opting to attend NC State instead. He was inserted into the starting rotation for the Wolfpack as a true freshman, going 9-0 with a 1.57 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 114 innings pitched in 2012, and the legend started to build. An even better sophomore season (10-3, 2.99 ERA, 184 strikeouts in 132 innings pitched) in 2013 led to speculation that he would have been at worst a top 3 pick had he been eligible for the draft that year. His 2014 season was less spectacular than his sophomore, but still excellent overall (117 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA in 98 innings pitched), but the talent kept him at the top of the draft regardless.
Since signing with the White Sox, Rodon has pitched in short bursts only, as had been the plan. He made two appearances with the White Sox' Arizona League affiliate before being sent to High-A Winston-Salem, and so far has thrown a total of nine innings, striking out 13 and walking four batters.
Rodon has the potential to be a top 10 fantasy starting pitcher down the line, capable of providing above-average production in three categories and elite production in a fourth. He has the potential to be a consistent 200+ strikeout pitcher on the strength of an above-average fastball which can reach 97 and a truly wipeout slider which has consistently received grades of 80 in scouting reports. He also features a changeup which has been seen as an above-average offering at times, but one that still could use work.
There have been rumors that Rodon will follow the same path to the majors that current White Sox' ace Chris Sale did, pitching in relief in the minors for just a few outings before reaching the majors in the same year he was drafted. While that is a possibility, I would estimate that realistically he won't be up this year, as Sale was brought up in 2010 with the White Sox competing for a playoff spot that year, and this year's White Sox are not really in the playoff hunt at this point.
The more realistic timeframe for Rodon would seem to be that Rodon spends most of the 2015 season between AA and AAA, with 2016 being likely for his promotion to the majors. The best case scenario for Rodon is a top flight starting pitcher, posting an ERA around 3.15-3.20, a WHIP around 1.15, and 9.5 to 10 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. If for some reason he cannot make it as a starter, his fastball-slider combination should still allow him to be an elite late inning option, with the potential to be an elite closer.
The White Sox have just three starting pitchers under contract for the 2015 and 2016 seasons (Danks, Sale, Quintana), so adding Rodon shouldn't be too difficult when he is ready. He's absolutely worth targeting in all dynasty formats should he be called up this year, and should be targeted in any minor league drafts this offseason.