A left-hander who could rise quickly through the system probably wasn’t the perfect fit for the Chicago White Sox, but the team wasn’t about to turn its back on one of the best talents in Thursday’s first round of the 2014 first-year player draft.
When you get a chance to land an arm like Carlos Rondon, as the White Sox did with the No. 3 overall pick, you figure out a way to fit him in the mix.
Rodon won’t be rushed to the major leagues as quickly as Chris Sale was in 2010, but if the brass' best guess happens, he will definitely arrive sooner rather than later. It might not be out of the question to see his first full season in a White Sox uniform happen in 2016.
But it could cause a bit of an overload of left-handers if Rodon does ascend quickly. Sale has contract options that could keep him with the White Sox until 2019, while Jose Quintana’s options can take him to the 2020 season. John Danks is signed through the 2016 season.
Nevertheless, this was a player the White Sox were not going to take a pass on, even if it means seeing opponents’ lineups loaded with right-handed hitters. If Sale, Quintana and Danks are going strong when Rodon arrives, the White Sox will consider it one of those good problems to have.
“We were certainly going take best player or pitcher available,” director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann said. “The fact that it did turn out to be college guy, and that perhaps his timeline is maybe quicker ... for sure it’s quicker than perhaps a high-school kid.”
Rondon’s 436 strikeouts were a North Carolina State record and he finished his career with a 2.24 ERA for the Wolfpack. This past season he had a 2.01 ERA in nearly 100 innings, finishing with a 6-7 record mostly because of a lack of run support.
Rondon isn’t expected to unseat Sale from the top of the rotation, but he could legitimately slide into the No. 2 spot and eventually give the White Sox an impressive one-two punch. He wasn’t the hardest thrower among the top prospects available, but a mid-90s fastball is mixed with what is considered one of the best sliders among all draft-eligible players.
“It’s a good one,” Laumann said. “It freezes left-handed hitters. The one thing I try to look at, especially for left-handed pitcher, you would expect at times that a left-hander would have trouble with it, but when they can bury a slider on the back foot of a right-handed hitter and get it under their hands, then you know a guy has a really good one.
“It’s certainly a dominant pitch -- and that’s not to take anything away from his fastball and his changeup, both of which are plus pitches -- but the slider is certainly a dominant pitch for him.”
If there is a concern, it is that Rodon is represented by agent Scott Boras, someone with whom the White Sox haven’t dealt much in recent years. When Kenny Williams was general manager, he wasn’t fond of the way Boras did business and avoided Boras clients whenever possible.
Rick Hahn, as the current GM, will get a chance to mend fences and get Rondon signed to a deal. Laumann doesn’t think it will be an issue.
“It’s been our goal, ever since I’ve been around here, whether it came from [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] or Kenny or Rick, that it’s our goal to get most talented, the best player available at the spot. I think Rick and Scott Boras have a fairly good relationship.”