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Under the Radar: José Rondón

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An extraordinary power transformation puts this 24-year-old in the 2019 mix, perhaps at the hot corner

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers
Wrong ’em Goyo: José Rondón appears to be a real option for next year’s Opening Day roster.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Under the Radar details players in the Chicago White Sox system who may have suffered setbacks, gotten lost in the shuffle, or just haven’t surfaced as significant prospects as of yet. Next up is Jose Rondon, who has come out of nowhere to tie for lead the White Sox organization in home runs, and may be a viable option for next year’s Opening Day roster.

Jose Rondon — (IF) —Chicago White Sox

Signed for $70,000 out of Venezuela in 2011 by the Angels, Rondon (six-foot-one, 195 pounds), spent three years in rookie ball (slashing .290/.352/.392) before making his full season debut in with the Inland Empire 66’ers (A+) in 2014. He appeared in that year’s Futures Game and was hitting .327 when on July 19 he was involved in a six-player trade to the San Diego Padres. He continued hitting for the Padres Lake Elsinore Storm (A+), to the tune of .301/.371/.390.

Beginning 2015, Rondón started the year ranked fifth in the Padres MLB Pipeline, and continued raking in Lake Elsinore to the tune of .300/.365/.414 prior to earning a promotion to AA San Antonio. His struggles in San Antonio (.190/.219/.230), combined with a season-ending fractured elbow, slipped him to 12th in MLB Pipeline’s prospect rankings to begin 2016. Rondón rebounded that year between San Antonio and El Paso (AAA) to hit .283/.309/.386. He also earned a promotion to the Padres that year, but struggled badly with just three hits in 25 at-bats. In an injury-riddled 2017 campaign, he hit .293/.347/.442 with a career-high seven homers but didn’t earn a return trip to San Diego.

Rondón was designated from the Padres in early January this year, in order to clear space on the 40-man roster. The White Sox pounced immediately, and acquired him for cash considerations on January 10.

With Charlotte this year, Rondón has sacrificed average for power. In 80 games with Charlotte, he slugged 18 homers; in 565 prior minor league games, he hit just 19. Overall with Charlotte, Rondón has hit .249/.290/.495. However, he’s only had 16 walks (4.86 BB%) and 82 strikeouts (24.92 K%) with Charlotte, which are among his career worst. He has stolen five bases with Charlotte — but has been caught six times. Through two stints with the White Sox through August 23 (totaling 53 AB), he’s slashed .245/.286/.528 with three doubles and four homers. Thus, his major league stats have paralleled his stats with Charlotte for 2018.

Rondón has spent 90.3% of in his minor league innings at short, 7.3% at second, and 2.4% at third base. His range factors grade far higher at short and second, but it’s possible he could play a credible hot corner with more work at that position. Over eight years in the minors, he’s committed just 98 errors altogether, which is quite good — especially considering the long throws he has to make from the left side of the infield.

If the 2019 season started tomorrow, third would probably be on the outside looking in to the White Sox roster. He should be a lock to remain on the 40-man roster, and would be available for call-up if/when injuries arrive to the infield. He appears to be blocked by Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson presently, and his best opportunity as a starter seems to be at third base — depending upon any trades or free agent acquisitions that occur during the offseason.

In the meantime, Rondón’s floor indicates he could be a solid utility infielder. Regardless, it’s conceivable he could fit into long-range plans with the White Sox, as he’s just 24 years of age.