The Chicago White Sox had the No. 3 pick overall Thursday in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft.
The pick: Carlos Rodon, left-handed pitcher, North Carolina State, 6-foot-4, 235 pounds.
His stats: Rodon went 6-7 for the Wolfpack in 14 starts this season, but that hardly told the story. He delivered a 2.01 ERA over 98⅔ innings, with three complete games. Rodon struck out 117 batters and gave up just two home runs. With 31 walks, he had nearly four strikeouts for every one base on balls. In his career at NC State, he won 25 games and had a 2.24 ERA.
His background: Add another player of Cuban heritage to the White Sox. Rodon’s father, Carlos Sr., was born in Cuba and moved with his family to the Miami area when he was 5 years old. Rodon was on NC State’s radar by the time he reached eighth grade. As a freshman in high school, the left-hander helped the varsity team to a state title. He was 11-0 as a senior in high school but did not sign after he was selected in the 16th round by the Milwaukee Brewers. He was 10-3 with a 2.99 ERA and had 184 strikeouts when the Wolfpack advanced to the College World Series in 2013. It was the first time NC State had advanced to the College World Series in 45 years.
ESPN draft guru Keith Law’s take: When Rodon is at his best, his fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s and occasionally reaches 96-97 mph. He didn't throw his heater as much as some scouts would have liked during the 2012 season, but it's a plus offering that he can throw by hitters who choose to wait on his slider. The pitch is all the more effective because of his slider, which is the best breaking ball of any pitcher in this year's class. It sits in the mid 80s with ridiculous movement that will give both left- and right-handed hitters fits thanks to its bite and tilt.
What it means: Most mock drafts had Rodon going in the first two selections, so it was somewhat of a surprise that the lefty was even available at No. 3. Indications were that the White Sox had a preference for a college pitcher who could rise through the ranks quickly. Many suspected the club would take a shot on LSU right-hander Aaron Nola if Rodon was gone, but it never got to that. If Rodon rises through the system quickly, as expected, it could leave the rotation with four left-handers since Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks are already on the staff.
The decision: The White Sox have watched Rodon closely since he was a high school senior and stayed on him during the lefty’s college days. “We’re excited because No. 1, we know how competitive this kid is, how important it is to be comfortable with an organization,” director of amateur scouting Doug Laumann said. “We’ve laid a lot of ground work, we’ve spent a lot of time with him, we spent time with him over the winter meeting with him, and we’re confident [a deal] will get done. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t happen.”
White Sox view: There were some question marks since Rodon leaned heavily on his slider this season, but the White Sox saw no reason for concern. “The coaches call the pitches,” Laumann said. “Sometimes you just don’t know if they have confidence in the third pitch, or because the slider might be most effective pitch to go ahead and strike somebody out, rather than pitching to contact, which you’re going to have to do in professional baseball.”