Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2014 MLB Draft First Look: Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon LHP
North Carolina State University- Junior
6'1"    230 Lbs.

Rodon was a pretty solid prospect coming out of Holy Springs High School in North Carolina, but he fell to Milwaukee who took a chance on him as an overslot guy in the 16th round. The Brewers could not get a deal done, so he instead headed to Raleigh to pitch for the Wolfpack. What he has done since arriving on campus has been nothing short of legendary. He became the first Division I freshman to become a Golden Spikes finalist in his 2012 campaign where he posted a 1.57 ERA and went undefeated in nine decisions. He also finished third in the nation with 135 punchouts. In his sophomore season Rodon was not a hundred percent health-wise early on, and as a result was not as consistent from start to start, but down the stretch he was nearly unhittable and practically dragged NC State to Omaha. He finished with 10-3 mark and led the league with 184 strikeouts. It wasn't even close either.

Rodon certainly has the stuff to justify the numbers. After adding about 25 pounds of muscle after high school, his fastball velocity jumped to the 92-95 range in college. He can add subtract from it too, sometimes he will throw it at 89 and others times he can dial it up to 98. Even when he struggled with arm stiffness and his velo dipped, he still threw in the 89-93 range, which is above average from the left side. Despite having elite velocity for a southpaw, his slider is what makes Rodon special. He throws two variations of the breaking ball: one that he uses to get ahead with and can throw for strikes even better than he can with his fastball; the other has sweeping Pacific-to-Atlantic movement that would easily miss bats against major league hitters now. The pitch is worthy of an 80 grade and is the best I have seen on an amateur. His third offering is his change-up, which he does not throw nearly enough of. It is a step behind his other pitches, but he only needs it to be major league average. I think it could be slightly better than that too because it has pretty nice fade.

His slider is Okay...

Rodon is slightly undersized for a starting pitcher, but he is extremely physical. His powerful legs are like tree trunks and they help him generate his impressive velocity. What stands out the most about Rodon on the mound, perhaps even more than his slider, is his bulldog mentality. He attacks hitters and is never afraid to throw inside. He is the kind of guy that managers should fear taking the ball from in a close game. Rodon has a high leg kick and a long stride, but he repeats his delivery very well. The biggest area for improvement in Rodon's game is his fastball command. It is not necessarily bad, because most of the time he is pretty sharp, but when he is off it can get ugly. It is the only thing that separates him from being a slam-dunk candidate to go 1-1 like Stephen Strasburg was in 2009 or David Price in 2007. Otherwise, he is that same caliber of prospect.

For the second straight summer Rodon took his talents to represent the USA and the Collegiate National Team. In 17 innings he did not yield a single run and only allowed five hits while striking out 21. In the season finale he dominated Cuba (where his family hails from) to clinch the sweep in a five-game Friendship Series. He tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings to cap off yet another magnificent season.

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