Earlier on Wednesday, in the middle of the daily surge of Kris Bryant updates, I tweeted that the amount of attention that Scott Boras drew to the Cubs diminished the dumb service-time debates that might be had with regards to Carlos Rodon.
After all, Bryant vanquished Double-A and Triple-A over a full season of pro ball last year, and he's followed it up with a .464/.531/1.500 line over 32 plate appearances this spring. That's a whole world different than Rodon's good 24 innings across three levels in one month in the White Sox farm system last year, followed by a Cactus League performance that could be graded as merely "OK."
Until later that night, when Rodon struck out nine Kansas City Royals over four scoreless (and walkless!) innings in a dominating performance en route to a 6-0 White Sox winner. So ... so much for keeping that quiet.
There still isn't a truly compelling argument against waiting two weeks for the extra year of control -- not when the Sox can avoid using a fifth starter during that period, and not when the bullpen has an initial hierarchy loaded with out-of-options guys. Sure, he might be the third-best relief candidate right now, but it would only take one bad game over the first two weeks to completely strip the value from that head start, and Chris Sale had a bad first two months during his first full season in the big leagues.
Plus, the changeup is still a work in progress. According to Brooks, he only threw four of them over 67 pitches, and they weren't especially effective in and of themselves.
But bureaucracy, logistics and other charades aside ... man, that was fun. "Audible laughter" fun. At least if you weren't hitting against him. Right, Alex Gordon?
Throwing to his N.C. State batterymate Brett Austin, Rodon's assortment of sliders stole the show, although he also displayed his best fastball command for fun as well. When he has those two things working for him, he doesn't really need a changeup at the onset of his career, because he can create different looks with the slider alone:
Rodon with even an average changeup will be a very difficult guy to face. His ability to change the shape/speed of that slider is impressive— Harry Pavlidis (@harrypav) March 26, 2015
and he's not shaping/changing speeds because he's got fringey stuff! He's doing that to a wicked power slider. Slurve to slutter.— Harry Pavlidis (@harrypav) March 26, 2015
.@harrypav Re: Rodon's slider -- Throws 84-87 slider early in count. 0-1 or 1-0, has to be sharper, 87 mph. There's 0-2, which is 89-90.— Dan Hayes (@CSNHayes) March 26, 2015
But there are reasons for him to commit to the changeup, and not just because he can diversify his approach even more against hitters. We've seen Chris Sale choose to throw his changeup more often than his slider to save him some wear and tear, and it'd be great for Rodon to have that option if he felt it was necessary.
As long as his changeup's under construction, though, it'd probably be best if he didn't throw strikes with it. He tried to get Omar Infante to swing over an 0-2 changeup starting off the third inning, but it split the plate, and Infante rifled it into left field.
But I liked how he used it against Kendrys Morales the following inning. He tried getting Morales to chase it off the plate on a 2-2 count. Morales resisted, and pretty easily:
On the next pitch, Rodon came in -- or at least inner-half -- with a 90 mph
cutter really hard slider, and Rodon had his ninth and final strikeout of the evening.
That's the stuff. Also, that's the stuff.
Developing and harnessing a changeup could be the thing that catapults him from a good starter to a great starter. At present, the Sox only need him to be a good starter, and so the changeup doesn't need to get him out of trouble as much as it needs to avoid getting him into it.