The White Sox bullpen was one of the worst in the majors in 2014. According to fangraphs.com, the Southside relief corp managed a 4.38 ERA and 4.22 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), metrics that were good enough for 28th and 29th out of 30 teams in the league respectively. The good news is, the bullpen might have some help on the way in the form of 2014’s number three overall draft pick, Carlos Rodon.
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Scott Merkin from MLB.com reported White Sox GM, Rick Hahn, is keeping his options open with regard to how the team will utilize Carlos Rodon in 2015. Describing the prospect’s immediate future Hahn observed, “It’s conceivable he could be a member of the bullpen in 2015 at some point.” Hahn reiterated Rodon’s role with the team would ultimately be as a starting pitcher, however, even then he sounded keen on developing Rodon in the bullpen for a season at the major league level, much like the team brought along Chris Sale in 2011.
"“I do believe much like when we had Chris Sale in a similar situation, that his long-term future is at the front end of a rotation, but we are not necessarily committed that it has to be Day 1 as part of a rotation in order to get to that spot.” – Rick Hahn, White Sox GM"
Since Rodon was drafted, many have speculated he would follow a nearly identical path to the majors as Sale, and it seems that is exactly what Hahn would ideally like to see happen.
In 2014 the White Sox leaned on Eric Surkamp’s 4.81 ERA for southpaw relief. Unleashing Carlos Rodon as a reliever in 2015 would add a much-needed left-handed option to the bullpen. It also allows the White Sox to allocate free agency dollars elsewhere by utilizing an in-house option to plug one of their multiple holes on the staff. Instead of having to sign a couple of veteran relievers, Hahn may only need to add one more solid contributor to the ‘pen. Judging by the slider Carlos shows off in the video below, the Sox may be hard pressed to find a better veteran relief option if they tried.
Given the risk involved with signing high-priced relief pitching (see Jim Johnson), Hahn’s frugality, and Rodon’s talent, it makes sense for the organization to allow Rodon to gain valuable strength and major league experience as a reliever for one year. As much as White Sox fans would love to see their $6 million dollar man rack up wins as a starter next season, rushing the flame-thrower into such a heavy workload may not be the wisest course of action.
Chris Sale’s success over the course of his relatively young career appears to be a testament to the path the organization laid out for him back in 2010. Four years later, Sale is one of the league’s premier starting pitchers and a Cy Young candidate. Rick Hahn and the White Sox aren’t willing to commit to it just yet, since they have a long offseason ahead of them, but it looks like Carlos Rodon’s path to the starting rotation is clear, and at the major league level, it starts in the bullpen. For White Sox fans everywhere, that should be a relief.