Through the early part of the season, much of the focus for the White Sox was on the development, or at times lack of development, of the young pitchers in their starting rotation. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Carson Fulmer all broke camp with the big club as members of the rotation. Fulmer has already been demoted to AAA, Giolito has struggled with command and had velocity issues, and Lopez has been pretty solid, but remains a work in progress.
With the results being less than great, there seemed to become a growing concern among some Sox fans about the state of the rebuild when it related to pitching. While some turned their attention to other pitching prospects in the organization for reassurance, one very important name kept under the radar. It was a player fans were already familiar with, but for some reason, seemed to get ignored. That player is Carlos Rodon, and he is now back with the Sox and ready to show his value, and importance, to the rebuild.
Rodon was really the first true piece of the rebuild, having been taken third overall in the 2014 MLB draft. He would make his MLB debut the following year after making only eight minor league appearances. Now, at age 25, Rodon is looking to find the form and develop into the top of the rotation pitcher the Sox envisioned when they took him.
The importance of Rodon to the organization cannot be understated. For one, of all the pitching prospects the Sox have, Rodon is the only lefty. Giolito, Lopez, Fulmer, Kopech, Cease, Hansen, Dunning, are all righties. Not long ago the Sox entire rotation was left-handed, but now Rodon is the only holdover.
Long term, if Rodon can be a top of the rotation pitcher, it makes things so much easier for the Sox. Despite some recent bumps in AAA, Michael Kopech still figures to slot into one of the top spots in the Sox future rotation. Lopez has shown that he is capable of being at least a middle of the rotation type pitcher. Even if Giolito and Fulmer don’t pan out like you hoped, Dunning, Hansen, Cease all become options to fill two slots. And that is without the Sox acquiring anyone in free agency.
There is no guarantee that Rodon will be an ace, but I think we will likely get a good answer by the end of this season whether or not that is a realistic possibility. So far the results have been mixed, but encouraging.
Rodon has made four starts since coming back this year. In three of those four starts he allowed two earned runs. His first two starts he only managed to make it through five innings, but in the last two he pitched into the seventh and through the eighth innings.
The control has been ok from Rodon as well, with just a 2.6 BB/9 rate so far and 64% strikes, although he has hit three batters, which have come at some bad times and cost him. Rodon did not walk a batter in his most recent start against a patient Oakland A’s club. The strikeouts are a little lower than usual, but that isn’t an area I would worry about.
Keeping in mind that Rodon didn’t have a spring training, and is still working himself back after surgery, what we have seen so far is pretty encouraging.
But at some point Sox fans are going to want to move past encouraging starts from their young pitchers and start to see the consistently good performances that will make for a formidable starting rotation in the future. And that will start with Rodon going out and consistently pitching six-plus innings of quality baseball every fifth day. If he can do that for the rest of the season, it may just be the most important development in a season full of trying to develop young players.