To leadoff Sunday night’s 8-7 loss to Charlotte, Norfolk center-fielder Julio Bourbon popped up the second pitch he saw from Carlos Rodon to the second baseman.
At least he made contact. The same cannot be said for most of his teammates.
Rodon struck out the next batter, Jemile Weeks, and rolled through the rest. When he left with a 2-1 lead, the White Sox prospect had fanned eight batters in just four innings, retiring five of the final six batters he faced in that manner. He got eight total swing-and-misses, and the only blemish on his ledger was a second inning double he allowed to Jimmy Paredes, the lone hit against him all night.
The third overall pick from this year’s June draft, Rodon made headlines simply for making it to Triple-A before any other 2014 selection. Thus far, though, he has not only held his own, he has thrived. The NC State standout struck out 3 over 3 innings of one hit, one run ball in his first appearance against Gwinnet on August 19th, and with Sunday night’s performance, he improved his line to a 2.57 ERA with 11 strikeouts across seven frames.
Rodon was considered by scouts to be the most polished and MLB-ready prospect in this year’s draft.
Consequently, speculation of a potential September call up mounted when he was promoted to Triple-A. White Sox big league manager Robin Ventura went so far as to say he “would like to see [Rodon in the majors]”
“If he’s doing well enough to come up here, yeah,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Again, we’re looking at trying to help us win. If he’s available and ready to go, he’s ready to go. I would like to see it, but he’s got to be ready to go.”
Well he has certainly looked ready to go thus far. Triple-A hitters have been almost completely overmatched against his frontline stuff, which includes a 91-94 MPH fastball with heavy sink and a slider that, at its best, is one of the best breaking pitches in baseball.
Not that Rodon is a complete pitcher by any stretch of the imagination. His third offering, a change-up needs refinement and his command is often spotty; he walked a batter per inning in his first start and two more Sunday night, giving him 6.4 BB/9.
But its unclear if Rodon can actually develop in those areas while playing against lesser competition. You can afford to walk a few batters if you’re only allowing one hit per start and when batters can’t sniff your fastball or slider, why bother throwing the change?
Rodon will make his next start August 30th against Gwinnet. With the International League season ending on September 1 and Charlotte out of playoff contention, it will be his final Triple-A outing of the year. Time – and White Sox GM Rick Hahn – will tell where he goes from there.