White Sox: Is Carlos Rodon Poised for a Breakout Season in 2017

With Chris Sale now in Boston, the Chicago White Sox will presumably look to Jose Quintana to be the ace of their staff.  But could Carlos Rodon be the South Side’s under-the-radar, steal of the draft?

Going into the 2015 season, Carlos Rodon was one the Chicago White Sox‘ most highly touted pitching prospects and was called up at only 22 years old.  Rodon performed reasonably well during his rookie season, going 9-6 with a 3.75 ERA over 139.1 innings pitched.

The 2016 season saw some slight regression from the young left-hander in certain areas, but he still had stretches that should create optimism for those who might be skeptical.  In 165.0 innings pitched, Rodon went 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA.  This gives him an 18-16 record to go along with a 3.90 ERA overall in his two-year career.

Having just turned 24 in December, there is still plenty of time for Rodon to round out his game, but the statistics show that he has already made some pretty significant improvements since his rookie season.

The Statistics

One of the biggest problems Rodon had early on was his control.  In 2015, his BB/9 rate was a whopping 4.6.  To help curb this issue, Rodon started utilizing his two-seam fastball more often; and even though his ground-ball percentage stayed relatively stagnant (46.8% in 2015 compared to 44.1% in 2016), he saw notable improvement with his control.  His BB/9 rate dropped to an impressive 2.9 in 2016.

Another telling sign of Rodon’s refined command is his increase in strikeouts per game.  Up from 8.98 K/9 in 2015, he finished with a 9.16 K/9 in 2016.  On its face, that might not seem like much progression, but those numbers are already phenomenal, and trending in the right direction.

Of the pitches in his arsenal, his slider is undoubtedly his most effective and has proven to be one of the best in the league currently.  According to Brooks Baseball, right-handers only managed to hit .180 against Rodon’s slider, while left-handers hit a paltry .061 against it in 2016.

Make no mistake, Jose Quintana is your safest bet when it comes to drafting starting pitchers from the White Sox, but Rodon could actually have a higher ceiling.  Unfortunately, the floor for him is also potentially lower than Quintana’s.

That’s the risk you take.  Rodon is more of a wildcard, but his upside could ultimately be highly rewarding for those who decide to invest in him.  Rodon could very well emerge as one of the league’s top young arms in 2017.