Heading into the 2016 season many are wondering just what to expect from Carlos Rodon. In 2015 Rodon made his Chicago White Sox debut, less than a year removed from the White Sox selecting him with the third overall pick in the previous MLB Draft. Starting out of the bullpen, a trademark strategy of the White Sox front office, Rodon appeared for the first time on April 21 against the Cleveland Indians. Rodon went on to make his first start on May 9 against the Cincinnati Reds, and recorded his first major-league win on that day.
The 2015 season was one of mixed results for Rodon, with his control being his biggest downside. His best pitch is by far his slider, but Rodon often worked himself into hitter-friendly counts, thus eliminating many opportunities to use his slider. As a result of his inability to command the strike zone early in counts, Rodon struggled to pitch deep into games. For the season, he ended up walking 71 batters in 139.1 innings pitched, breaking down to an average of 4.6 BB/9.
As the season progressed, so did Rodon’s ability to command the strike zone early in counts, which allowed him to use his slider more effectively. As a result, Rodon compiled ERAs of 2.48 and 2.03 in August, and September respectively. Rodon posted an impressive 9.0 K/9 due to a devastating slider and an improved changeup in the later portion of the season. His usage of the slider peaked at 31.62 percent in August and opposing hitters post a meager .180 average against the pitch in the same timeframe.
So what exactly could we expect from Carlos Rodon in 2016? I believe that Rodon will continue to benefit from his improved command of the strike zone, and the ability to pitch ahead in counts. Rodon has the ability to excel at the major-league level, and proved that last year when he was able to stay ahead and locate his fastball. He has a fastball that can challenge hitters when it is located well, in addition to a formidable fastball, Rodon has one of the better sliders in all of major league baseball. The key to his success moving forward will be the command of the strike zone with his fastball early and often throughout games. Reducing his walks and bad counts where he can’t utilize his slider will reduce his 3.75 ERA from 2015 considerably. This was particularly evident in August and September.
At this point, it is safe to assume that Rodon will begin the 2016 season as the number three starter for the White Sox behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. Moving forward, though, Rodon has the talent to surpass Quintana and create a formidable 1-2 punch at the top end of the rotation with Chris Sale.