White Sox deliberate, but Rodon not called up
Top prospect and top pick in 2014 Draft not among players promoted
MINNEAPOLIS -- White Sox fans wanted to see Carlos Rodon join the team when rosters expanded in September.
Rodon, the team's top pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and third selection overall, certainly wanted to join the White Sox being the competitor that he is. And general manager Rick Hahn acknowledged that debate took place about bringing up the left-handed hurler in the same year that he was drafted, with good arguments on both sides of the decision-making process.
Ultimately, the White Sox decided that move was not best for Rodon's development as a front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. He was not part of the seven roster moves announced prior to Tuesday's series opener with the Twins.
"I realize it would have been fun to have him here because he's an exciting player," said Hahn of Rodon. "I realize it would have been an element of the future that people want to see. But fundamentally, we are making these decisions about what's best for his long-term development.
"If today was July 2 or August 2 and the player had made three starts at Triple-A and had 25 some odd innings as a pro, nobody would be asking why he's not in the big leagues. It's about what's best for the player's long-term development. We felt a big league promotion was not consistent with that at this time."
After agreeing to a franchise-record $6.58 million signing bonus on July 11, Rodon made a quick run from the White Sox Arizona Rookie League team to Class A Winston-Salem to Triple-A Charlotte. It was an extremely successful run as well, with 38 strikeouts, 13 walks and no home runs allowed over 24 2/3 innings.
His changeup was better than advertised, featuring the same path as his sinker but coming in at 82 or 83 mph, as described by catcher Josh Phegley, who moved from Charlotte to the White Sox on Tuesday. His fastball command, which understandably needs refinement as a young hurler, was certainly good enough at 95 mph. His makeup was off the charts, which the White Sox already understood, and his slider, probably the top pitch in his arsenal, cut through opposing Minor League hitters.
"And the harder he wants to make it break, he kind of gets it a little flatter," said Phegley, who caught Rodon at Charlotte. "When he's just smooth with his delivery, it's really sharp and it's actually a tough pitch to handle behind the plate as well.
"Nobody really sniffed the slider in any one of his starts. I was impressed with his changeup and sinker and everything. He seems to have a few pitches to go with it. He's got great stuff and I think just consistency, throwing strikes, he got a little wild.
"Fastball command and stuff is a big hit for him," Phegley said. "When he gets in a little bit of a rut, he errs on the side of trying harder. He's a go-getter and you always want to see that. The effort level is always going to be there."
So why was Rodon passed over in the opportunity to follow the Chris Sale career path from 2010, when Sale pitched in the Majors the same season he was drafted? People will point to the White Sox not wanting to start Rodon's big league service time, but Hahn said Tuesday that factor ranks lower down on the list.
With the White Sox out of contention, this month is all about development. Using Rodon as a reliever and possibly a spot starter, while asking him to get out Major League hitters, did not fit what the dynamic 21-year-old and top-ranked White Sox prospect per MLB.com needed at this point.
Just the fact that Rodon's promotion stands as a topic of discussion, especially after he was inactive for more than two months after N.C. State's season ended and he debuted in Arizona on July 22, speaks volumes for his future and the future of the White Sox rotation. It's a future that could begin as soon as the start of the 2015 campaign.
"Again, he has responded to all the challenges we put in front of him," said Hahn of Rodon. "We are very pleased with how he finished up his first several weeks as a pro. We fully expect him to come to big league camp next year and compete for a spot on the 2015 White Sox. That's how far along he is in his development.
"I think ultimately it was a clear decision for us in that if you remove the Sept. 2 pressure, you aren't bringing that player to the big leagues objectively. So why allow the calendar to dictate our development plan? The fact that we are having this conversation is a huge positive."