The White Sox Starting Rotation Relies on Carlos Rodon

Aug 22, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Chicago White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 22, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Chicago White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago White Sox have a solid rotation heading into the 2016 season, but Carlos Rodon can bring it to another level.

The silver lining to the White Sox’ struggles last season was a lot of young players were able to see the field. One in particular was Carlos Rodon, a highly touted left-hander out of North Carolina State. Chicago drafted Rodon third overall in 2014 but he didn’t stay in the minors for long. He debuted on April 21, 2015, less than a year after signing with the Sox.

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He had an up and down rookie campaign, which was expected, but also showed a lot of potential. Rodon went 9-6 in 23 starts for the White Sox, posting a 3.75 ERA in 139.1 innings pitched. Many people believe he and Chris Sale will be able to become one of the most dominant one-two punches in the MLB in the very near future, which seems possible after watching Rodon during his rookie season.

Rodon struck out 139 batters, averaging one per inning, but struggled with his control all season. Rodon was fourth in the AL in walks, giving up 71 free passes. That will obviously have to go down if he wants to be a top of the rotation pitcher, although it’s not out of the ordinary for a young pitcher to struggle with control.

With control issues comes consistency issues, the biggest knock on Carlos Rodon last year. In his first career start against the Cincinnati Reds, he picked up his first career win by recording eight strikeouts and four walks in six innings, while only surrendering two runs. However, in his next start, against the Oakland Athletics, he was hit hard and allowed five runs in only four innings, walking six batters as well.

As you can see, Rodon showed the ability to keep the Sox in the game with his pitching, but also showed his youth at the same time. The good news is, Rodon had ten outings in which he pitched at least six innings and allowed one or fewer runs. However, in contrast, he had four outings where he allowed five or more runs. That includes a game in late July when Rodon gave up eight runs in three innings, his worst outing of the season.

With that being said, it’s clear that Carlos Rodon got more comfortable as the season progressed. In five starts during July, Rodon compiled a 6.57 ERA, going 1-3 in that span. His command was the worst it was all season, allowing 17 walks and hitting three batters. Rodon was unable to find the strike zone but when he did he was getting hit hard. Owning a WHIP of 1.743 in July, Rodon was getting shelled nearly every game.

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Rodon finished the season on a high note though, giving Chicago a lot of hope for the upcoming season. In August, Rodon owned a 2.48 ERA, striking out 32 and only walking 13 batters. He continued to show improvement in his four starts in September, going 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA. Rodon also struck out 20 batters while walking 10 in 26.2 innings.

The improvement Rodon showed in one season was remarkable, and gave the White Sox organization a better idea of the young pitcher’s potential. Rodon is now set to be third in the Sox rotation, behind ace Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.

Despite Chris Sale being one of the league’s best pitchers, Carlos Rodon presents the most intrigue among the Sox starters. He will be the one who either pushes this rotation over the top this season, or breaks them.

We saw two different Rodon’s last season, and surely we’ll see somewhat inconsistent results again from the second-year pitcher. However, it will be his ability to limit the inconsistency and finding his groove early in the season that will tell the tale.

Chicago knows what to expect from Sale, Quintana, John Danks, and even Mat Latos, somewhat. Sale is one of the best pitchers in the league, Quintana will give you 200 solid innings, Danks is a decent fourth or fifth starter, and if Latos can stay healthy, he could prove to be a real asset to the team like he was for the San Diego Padres early in his career.

But with Carlos Rodon there is no way to tell. He won’t have a sub-3.00 ERA this season like he did at the end of last year, but he should improve to around a 3.45 ERA. That would give the White Sox a solid third starter behind their established lefties. It would also continue to show the White Sox organization that the development process is going smoothly and show that his ceiling could be around Chris Sale level.

For the first time, Rodon will start the season on the major league roster and will get the chance to pitch 200 innings, barring an injury. He has the ability to make a solid rotation into one of the better rotations into the American League by giving the White Sox three above-average starting pitchers, rather than two.

It may seem like a lot of pressure for the 22-year old, but despite all the off-season moves the Sox made, they’re realistically not going to compete for a World Series this season. It’s another season where younger players need to continue to develop, and hopefully they get a better understanding of the direction they’re going in.

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All eyes were on Carlos Rodon last season, and even more will be on him this year as well. A sophomore slump is possible, but he’s one of the best young pitchers in the game. He has shown the ability to dominate a game, but also his youth. Either way, it’ll be fun to watch his development throughout the year.