Here in Chicago, there is quite the buzz surrounding both organizations heading into the regular season. For the South Siders, the playoff aspirations seem a little far’fetched so long as John Danks and Hector Noesi are the #4/#5 options in the starting rotation. Robin Ventura appears set to head into the season with Danks and Noesi, but there is a prospect busting at the seams, ready for an opportunity to start for the White Sox. Carlos Rodon could end up being this year’s AL Rookie of the Year thanks to his unique combination of talent, opportunity, and competitive team.
Drafted 3rd overall last season out of North Carolina State University, Carlos Rodon was long considered the best pitching prospect in this draft class until a less than stellar junior season hurt his stock. A lefty with the ceiling of a top #2 starter, Rodon didn’t drop far in the draft and is far ahead the development compared to the top two picks, Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek. Rodon is a big kid at 6’3" 230 lbs and appears to be able to easily handle a starter’s workload. There was some quiet whispers at the end of last year that Rodon might get called up in a bullpen role for Chicago, but that role would merely have been out of necessity. Rodon is a starter through-and-through and has the strikeout potential to be one of the best fantasy SP’s in the game.
Rodon only pitched 24.1 innings in the minors last season after signing with Chicago, but managed to reach the AAA level by the end of the season. Not much can be gathered from such a small sample, but a monster strikeout potential was on full display with a 14.1 K/9 across the entire three levels. Rodon has the ceiling of an SP1 for fantasy teams, and for a player with that upside and proximity to the majors is a rare combination. He should contribute in 4 categories and rack up counting stats while logging 200+ innings/year. Obviously, projecting future health in pitchers is a practice in futility, but there has been little reason to not trust in Rodon’s left arm.
The future strikeout projections are based heavily on the success of Carlos Rodon’s elite slider. It’s his best pitch, and he throws it with consistency. His slider is sure to generate a ton of swings and misses at the highest level and is the mandatory "out-pitch" we look for in any future fantasy stud. Rodon’s fastball is also an above-average pitch that sits 92-96 mph with late life. The only knock on the fastball is Rodon’s tendency to leave it up in the zone. He’ll get himself hurt when his command fails him, but it is something that can get ironed out after consistent big league reps. His final pitch is a changeup that lags behind the other two offerings. It’s more of a show-me pitch, but should be good enough to keep him as a starter in the long run. It’s common for pitchers to develop a changeup later in their development when they have such a monster breaking piece that can get them out of jams. I’m not worried about the lack of a plus changeup right now, but he will need to show some signs of developing it.
Overall there is very little risk with Carlos Rodon. There will be some bumps in the road as there is with the development of any pitcher, but barring any serious injuries the path appears to be headed straight for fantasy dominance. The strikeouts and ratios should be good enough where we look the other way on the park factor and tough division that are hurting Rodon’s value. Long term he will likely find massive success in Chicago.