He entered his junior season at North Carolina State University as the presumptive number one overall pick, and when the Houston Astros selected Brady Aiken (whom they failed to sign), it appeared the Miami Marlins would snatch up the big lefty (especially with his Cuban ancestory and the city’s strong Cuban ties), instead opting for the Texas high school hurler Tyler Kolek.
Many felt Rodon had the ability to make the quick ascension to the major leagues with the White Sox, a la Chris Sale in 2010. As we know, that did not happen, but Rodon is in big league camp this spring with a realistic shot at making the big club as either a part of the rotation or a bullpen arm.
If he makes the rotation, he would likely replace Hector Noesi–unless John Danks gets traded. The more realistic option could be the bullpen route, where like left-handers Sale and Mark Buehrle before him, the White Sox could ease him into the Major Leagues by using him out of the ‘pen before converting him into a full time starter. (I would say it worked out there, what do you think?)
Since the rotation is currently balanced, (four lefties may be a bit much, didn’t work out a few years ago either) and there probably is not much of a trade market for Danks and his salary, there is a better chance for a bullpen spot. However, that group added some nice left-handed options this year with Zach Duke, Dan Jennings, and Onelki Garcia plus the returning Eric Surkamp leaves no real need for a southpaw in the relief corps.
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Chances are Rodon starts the season in the minors, most likely AAA Charlotte. Despite having some nasty stuff down in Arizona, per backup catcher hopeful-Geovany Soto, from what is reported, he still needs to refine that change-up he has been working on. (Which is another reason he is not ready to start, as only having two and a half major league ready pitches would get exposed after the first time through the order.)
I envision Rodon spending the first half of the season working as a starter in AAA so that by the All-Star break he may be ready to make the step up to the Windy City. And if all the starters are firing on all cylinders? Well, that is what dynamic September call-ups are for when you are making a play-off run. (David Price in 2008 ring a bell?)
Even with Sale’s recent injury, Rick Hahn maintains that Rodon will only get the call to the show if they feel he is ready, both physically and mentally, to handle a spot in the White Sox’s starting rotation. He will not rush Rodon simply because Sale may or may not be ready when Opening Day rolls around.
Look for Jeff Samardzija to get the opening day nod should Sale be unable to perform the honor. (Has anyone ever started Opening Day consecutive years for the White Sox and Cubs? That would be pretty interesting trivia tidbit if not!)
What do you think? Where should (or will) Rodon start the 2015 campaign? Minor leagues? White Sox rotation? Bullpen? Leave your comments below!