Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Chicago White Sox @ Oakland Athletics, 10:05 PM ET
CHW: Carlos Rodon (2015: 9-6, 139.1 IP, 3.75 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.44 WHIP, 9.0 K/9)
OAK: Sonny Gray (2015: 14-7, 208.0 IP, 2.73 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 7.3 K/9)
Tonight’s matchup features a pair of highly-drafted college products, Carlos Rodon out of North Carolina State and Sonny Gray out of Vanderbilt. Gray was selected by the Athletics with the 18th overall pick of the 2011 draft following his junior year with coach Tim Corbin and the Commodores. Three years later, Rodon was taken even higher, going third overall to the White Sox following three seasons with the Wolfpack.
Gray didn’t make his major-league debut until 2013, pitching 64.0 innings over 12 games (10 starts) and striking out an impressive 9.4 batters per nine innings en route to a 2.67 ERA. Standing at just 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Gray impressed many in his debut season with a mid-90s fastball and big 12-to-6 curveball. His 2014 was a successful first full season, as Gray made 33 starts for the Athletics, tossing 219.0 innings and notching a 3.08 ERA. In 2015, Gray once again shined as Oakland’s ace, making his first career All-Star team and finishing third in Cy Young Award voting on the heels of a 2.73 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.
Rodon wasted no time in his matriculation to the major leagues, jumping straight from Class-A Advanced to Triple-A in his draft year of 2014. He then maked two starts at Triple-A in 2015 before getting called up to the majors for good in late April. His first three appearances came in relief, but he was inserted into the Chicago rotation for good on May 9. Featuring a mid-90s fastball and hard wipeout slider from the left side, Rodon showed plenty of strikeout ability in his debut season, but also struggled with his control, walking more than four batters per nine innings.
Despite the high walk totals, Rodon performed well for the White Sox, making their rotation a nightmare for left-handed hitters along with ace Chris Sale and underrated #2 starter Jose Quintana. Should he be able to hone in on his command while maintaining good strikeout stuff, Rodon could emerge as a star and give Chicago a chance to make some noise in what many consider to be a wide open American League Central.
While Rodon and Gray are similar in that they are both young and both excellent pitchers, they couldn’t be more different on the mound. Gray, standing at the aforementioned 5-foot-10, throws with high energy right over the top from the right side, and utilizes six different pitches including four-seam and two-seam fastballs, the occasional cutter, both a slider and a curveball as well as a changeup.
Rodon checks in at 6-foot-3 and nearly 240 pounds, and delivers the ball out of a high three-quarters arm slot with near effortlessness. His repertoire is narrower, as he throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball and his hard slider, mixing in a rare changeup.
This matchup features two of the American League’s best young arms, but their meeting is only possible because Gray was scratched from Monday’s Opening Day game due to food poisoning. Those who were excited for a Chris Sale-Sonny Gray showdown are surely disappointed, but this is about the best substitute you could dream up involving these two teams.
Detroit Tigers @ Miami Marlins, 4:55 PM ET: Anibal Sanchez vs. Jose Fernandez – After two strong seasons in Detroit, Sanchez struggled last year, posting a HR/9 of nearly 2.0. Jose Fernandez makes his season debut after making just 11 starts in 2015 due to injury.
Boston Red Sox @ Cleveland Indians, 6:10 PM ET: Clay Buchholz vs. Carlos Carrasco – After beginning the 2015 season strong, making 18 starts and pitching to a 3.26 ERA/2.68 FIP, Buchholz went down with an injury never to return, failing to make 20 starts for the fourth time in the last seven years. Carlos Carrasco looks to build off a banner year in which he started a career-high 30 games, striking out 216 batters in 183.2 innings.
Philadelphia Phillies @ Cincinnati Reds, 7:10 PM ET: Aaron Nola vs. Brandon Finnegan – Like the two men in our matchup of the week, both of these pitchers were college standouts who have quickly made their way into big-league rotations, and for good reason. Aaron Nola of Louisiana State University goes for the Phillies and Brandon Finnegan of Texas Christian University goes for the Reds.