Just days after the Cubs called up Kris Bryant, the White Sox have called up their top prospect, Carlos Rodon. Selected 3rd overall, Rodon is the first pitcher drafted by the Pale Hose in the opening round since they selected another left-handed pitcher 13th overall. Perhaps you've heard of him. A skinny fellow. Goes by the name Chris Sale. Like Sale, Rodon has earned a quick promotion to the big club, logging just 21.2 innings in the minor leagues before getting the call. Also like Sale, despite being drafted as a starter, Rodon has joined the White Sox's bullpen upon promotion, rather than their rotation.
The similarities between Rodon and Sale don't end at the beginning of their big league career. The two left-handers also entered the majors with a similar arsenal (the table below shows Rodon's 2015 spring training statistics and Sale's 2014 major league appearances). Both threw a mid- to high-90's fastball early in the count and relied heavily on a devastating slider, particularly when they got ahead of the batter. In addition to the change, which Rodon threw as infrequently as Sale, Rodon also sports a sinker, which he throws at a cruel and unusual 96 mph.
|Rodon Frequency (2015)
|Rodon Velocity - mph 2015)
|Sale Frequency (2010)
|Sale Velocity - mph (2010)
Chris Sale made a smooth transition to the majors by way of the 'pen. Although his BB% was above average (10.9 percent) it was offset by his 34.8 K%, the 6th highest in the the league that season (minimum 20 IP -- Sale logged 23). While Rodon's slider certainly created more pre-draft hype, he may not equal Sale's considerable strikeout prowess. Steamer projects Rodon to strike out less than a batter per inning (8.8 K/9) this season. Now, those projections are for Rodon as a starter, so maybe we give him a bump assuming that his stuff will play up in relief where can empty the tank more quickly and has the advantage of not having to work through a lineup a second or third time. Like Sale, Rondon also projects to have issues with control in his first season, walking more per nine than the league average, with close to 4 BB/9.
So will Carlos Rodon be the next Chris Sale? Probably not. First of all, he seems destined to join the starting rotation more quickly. Sale spent both 2010 and 2011 in the bullpen before finally making the move to SP, while the White Sox seem eager to add Rodon to the rotation this season. This likely the combination of several factors which may include the pressure to win this season after several high profile free agent signings and just the single year left with Jeff Samardzija under control, and the manager, as Sale was added to the rotation in Robin Ventura's first season as the White Sox's skipper.
For his part, since joining the rotation Sale has been the 6th best pitchers in MLB (14.4 fWAR) training only Kershaw, Hernandez, Scherzer, Price, and Wainright. A big part of his transition from high-leverage reliever to ace has been his ability to build his K% as a starter back up to the level he enjoyed as a reliever while cutting his walks in half. This is what separates an ace from just another guy with stuff, a transition we'll just have to wait and see if Rodon can make as well.
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Matt Jackson is a featured writer for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @jacksontaigu.