White Sox young starter struggled at beginning of 2016, but finished season with solid starts. Moving into next season, can the 2014 first round pick make the next step to becoming a star?
In order for Carlos Rodon to become a front-line starter with the Chicago White Sox, he needs to do one thing. He needs to put an entire year together of elite pitching. For his first two seasons in the majors, he has struggled in the first half but put it together in the second half. Is it going to take a while before this happens? Or will he put it all together in 2017? These are the key issues for Rodon now, and for his improvement moving forward.
Looking over the numbers Rodon has put up over the first two seasons, he has been about a .500 pitcher. While he finished 9-6 with a 3.75 ERA in 2015, Rodon fell off a bit in 2016. Even though he put up the same amount of wins (9) (given he pitched nearly 26 more innings), he lost 10 games and his ERA dropped to 4.04.
Another issue is control, which hasn’t been the best so far in his young career. His K/BB rate was 2/1 in 2015 (71 BB’s and 139 K’s), however much better in 2016. It was 3/1, as he walked 54 and struck out 168. That last stat is a key, as it could lead to much better command, which will be discussed next.
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Here is the one key to Rodon becoming a dominant pitcher. Locate his fastball, if he fails to do that it doesn’t matter how good of a slider he has, Rodon will never be a star at the big league level.
Due to the velocity on it, he can easily blow it by hitters. By using his fastball to get ahead of hitters, his fastball becomes an out pitch. When he throws it well, which is often, it is extremely difficult to make contact against. Considering the fact that his best pitch is his slider, he is going to get outs with it. Here are facts involving Rodon’s slider:
Looking at the way hitters see a slider, left handed batters will have a harder time hitting a LHP, (same for RH batters). Since there is such a sharp break to Rodon’s slider, it is nearly impossible to hit when he throws it well. Here are the splits against Rodon. Righties hit .173 in 2015, and .180 in 2016 when he threw his slider. On the flip side, lefties only hit .127 in 2015 and .061 in 2016. The realization of this is key, however he needs to locate it as well.
To help you understand this, it is a lot harder for a left-hander to hit a slider from a left-handed pitcher (as long as he doesn’t hang it) than vice-versa. Even though that isn’t the only pitch he throws, it is a big help to Rodon.
All in all, as I have said many times Rodon has all of the ability to be an elite pitcher at the big league level. The key to all of this is the word ability, it doesn’t mean that he will. Adding a changeup to his repitoire is key as well, but the fastball command is priority number one. A good fastball with his slider would be deadly, and make him one of the better starters in the league.
However, there is some development that needs to occur for him to do this. Given he was reaching the upper 90’s in velocity later in 2016, he still has a way to go. If he gets there, Rodon can be special. Whether he will or not, has yet to be determined. Let’s hope he does get there, Sox fans.