Skip to content

The White Sox’s plan that can make Carlos Rodon an elite pitcher

Aug 11, 2014, 11:47 AM EDT

Carlos Rodon’s plus fastball and elite slider are probably enough to get him by in the majors in the estimation of one talent evaluator.

But a month into his professional career the White Sox and their top prospect have made the improvement of Rodon’s changeup one a priority.

Rodon — the third overall pick in June’s amateur draft — believes command of his changeup will make him a better major leaguer, whenever the White Sox decide to make that happen.

The left-handed pitcher out of North Carolina State is already viewed as a great talent: MLB.com rates him the No. 22 prospect in baseball while ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him No. 10 last month. Baseball America’s JJ Cooper unofficially has Rodon rated between 40-45.

But if Rodon can hone his changeup, he’s capable of reaching the next level, MLB.com’s Jim Callis said.

“To some extent he probably could live off the fastball and the slider because the slider is that good that hitters can’t really sit on the fastball,” Callis said. “The changeup is just going to mess with guys more and I think the changeup is what makes him an elite pitcher.”

[RELATED: Hahn says Rodon could be in White Sox 2015 rotation]

When he helped lead N.C. State to the College World Series in 2013 with 184 strikeouts in 132 1/3 innings as a sophomore, Rodon set some nearly impossible standards for himself.

He only added to those expectations, ones Rodon said in June he “didn’t live up to,” with a dominant performance for Team USA against Cuba. Callis didn’t attend the exhibition but said evaluators there for the 11-strikeout game believed Rodon could have won in the majors that night, in part because he showed an outstanding changeup.

Headed into 2014, Rodon was viewed as the consensus No. 1 player in the draft and one American League scout said Rodon was already a “top 10 pitcher on the planet.”

But the combo of a 6-7 record and a disappointing season for the Wolfpack affected Rodon’s draft value, even though he lowered his ERA from 2.99 in 2013 to 2.01.

Callis thinks NC State asked Rodon to rely on his slider too much early in the season and that led to less command and reduced velocity of a fastball that MLB.com ranked 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. MLB.com grades his slider a 70 while his changeup, which Rodon said he rarely used his junior season, is a 50.

Since he signed a franchise-record $6.582 million bonus on July 11, much of the work Rodon has done surrounds his changeup as well as fastball command. Whether playing catch, in bullpen sessions or in games, Rodon estimates he has thrown double or triple the amount of changeups he did in college.

“I’ve had to make a couple of adjustments to pro ball as far as pitching and pitch sequences,” Rodon said. “I understand now that anyone can hit a fastball and I have to use those offspeed pitches to compliment the fastball. I’ve been relying heavily on the changeup recently and it’s working out pretty good for me.

“It’s just getting a feel for the pitch and constantly throwing it.”

[RELATED: Chris Sale’s advice to Rodon? Keep it simple]

Rodon — who struck out three over three scoreless innings on Thursday and will start again Wednesday for Single-A Winston-Salem — threw five or six changeups in his 39 pitches and said it’s the best he has felt with it so far.

Prior to him joining the White Sox, minor-league pitching coordinator Curt Hasler hadn’t seen much of Rodon’s changeup.

So far Hasler, who has been on hand for three of Rodon’s five appearances, including Thursday, has been impressed.

“I saw the fastball, the good life on the fastball, the plus-plus slider,” Hasler said. “I didn’t see a lot of changeups so I didn’t really know what to expect. But from Day One when I saw his changeup, I told (Single-A pitching coach J.R. Perdew), ‘Wow, that’s a good changeup.’ It’s almost like maybe he didn’t need it before.

“He threw it five or six times the other day in the game. We saw a handful of really good ones that day. It’s making a lot of progress. He knows exactly what he’s going to have to do with all those pitches.”

Callis said it’s all part of the package the White Sox received when Rodon slipped to them at No. 3. Having thrown several high-profile games over the last three years, Rodon has valuable experience on big stages to pair with a good pitching mentality.

“He knows there’s more than just rearing back and trying to throw the ball by guys,” Callis said. “He’s also got the confidence without being cocky although he probably straddled cocky a little bit in a good way. He’s got everything you want. He’s got the stuff. He understands what he needs to do. He’s really highly competitive.”

Even though he has the confidence he is close to, if not, ready for the majors, Rodon isn’t worried. He tries to focus on the things he can control, even when manager Robin Ventura said there’s a better than average chance Rodon could pitch in the big leagues this season. Rodon said he would leave that decision for “the bosses up there” and only wants to further develop his game, especially the changeup.

“I’m throwing it while I’m playing catch, throw it in the pen for sides and the game, as it comes along,” Rodon said. “My last outing, I had a pretty good feel for it and it’s only getting better.

“I’m starting to get that command back and that feel for everything. You get a little breakthrough every time you pitch and I hit one this last outing. I’m getting there.”

Latest Posts
  1. Dodgers agree to minor league deal with Freddy Garcia

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:34 PM EDT

    Freddy Garcia AP AP

    Garcia, 38, last pitched in the majors in 2013 as a member of the Orioles and Braves.

  2. Red Sox won’t rush prospect Blake Swihart to the majors despite Christian Vazquez injury

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:25 PM EDT

    Blake Swihart AP AP

    Ryan Hanigan and Sandy Leon figure to handle catching duties for the Red Sox in the early part of the season.

  3. Phil Coke wins spot on Cubs’ Opening Day roster

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT

    phil coke getty Getty Images

    This day has mostly been about who will not be on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, but it was announced this evening that reliever Phil Coke has earned a spot on the team.

  4. Cardinals officially name Carlos Martinez as fifth starter

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Carlos Martinez AP AP

    In a decision that was all but inevitable after news of Jaime Garcia’s renewed shoulder issues, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny confirmed today that right-hander Carlos Martinez has won the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

  5. Trevor Cahill, Chase Anderson win rotation spots with D-Backs; Daniel Hudson to bullpen

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    diamondbacks logo alternate

    The Diamondbacks will go into the season with a starting rotation of Josh Collmenter, Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa, Trevor Cahill, and Chase Anderson.

  6. Report: The Pirates and Gregory Polanco have reopened extension talks

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:09 PM EDT

    Gregory Polanco AP

    The two sides first discussed the possibility prior to Polanco’s promotion to the majors last year.

  7. Anthony Rendon sees Dr. James Andrews for second opinion on ailing knee

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:19 PM EDT

    at Space Coast Stadium on March 9, 2015 in Viera, Florida. Getty Images

    Rendon suffered what was termed as a minor MCL sprain in his left knee on March 9 and continues to feel discomfort.

  8. UPDATE: Drew Storen leaves game with blister on foot

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:02 PM EDT

    Drew Storen Getty Images

    That Nationals don’t need another injury. But they may have one.

  9. The MLBPA releases a statement on Kris Bryant, mentions possible litigation

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Tony Clark AP

    I’d still be surprised if they went down that road — and I think it’s a bad road to go down — but Tony Clark is leaving the option on the table.

  10. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy will begin the season on the disabled list

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT

    St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

    Everth Cabrera, who was the Padres’ starting shortstop for most of the past three seasons, looks likely to fill in for Hardy.

  11. Indians release left-hander Scott Downs

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT

    Scott Downs Getty Getty Images

    Downs signed a minor-league deal in mid-December.

  12. In the wake of the Kris Bryant demotion, Scott Boras’ vocabulary has gone to 11

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:32 PM EDT

    Spinal Tap But it goes to eleven

    The Cubs are playing ersatz baseball, you see. And this is the, um, apogee of something.

  13. White Sox send top prospect Carlos Rodon to Triple-A

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT

    carlos rodon ap AP

    Rodon ranked as a consensus top-20 prospect and has top-of-the-rotation upside, so expect to see him in Chicago by the All-Star break.

  14. Kevin Correia released by the Mariners

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    Kevin Correia AP

    He just signed on March 9, but after three awful appearances, the M’s have cut bait.

  15. Cardinals shut down Jaime Garcia with more shoulder problems

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT

    jaime garcia getty Getty Images

    Carlos Martinez time in the Cardinals’ rotation?

  16. Mets find a lefty, acquire reliever Alex Torres from Padres

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT

    San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Getty Images

    He posted a 3.33 ERA in 70 appearances for the Padres in a limited role, logging a total of just 54 innings with a 51/33 K/BB ratio.

  17. The Cubs assign Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to the minors, option Javier Baez as well

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    Kris Bryant Getty Images

    Service time manipulation, the depth chart and hacktastic tendencies mean that the future is not quite here for three of the Cubs’ top prospects.

  18. Reds release left-hander Paul Maholm

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT

    paul maholm getty Getty Images

    Maholm has indicated that he wants to continue starting, which likely sealed his fate in Cincinnati and limits his options going forward.

  19. It’s OK for ballplayers to be friendly with one another. Really.

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.11.07 PM AP

    Baseball technically has a rule against “fraternization.” It’s a dumb rule.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Fernandez (4957)
  2. K. Bryant (4256)
  3. Y. Tomas (4194)
  4. C. Rodon (4127)
  5. S. Doolittle (4116)
  1. G. Richards (3943)
  2. A. Cobb (3916)
  3. K. Uehara (3868)
  4. H. Olivera (3845)
  5. K. Jansen (3837)