White Sox take lefty Rodon with third pick

N.C. State standout posted 2.01 ERA with 117 strikeouts this past season

White Sox take lefty Rodon with third pick

LOS ANGELES -- Imagine the White Sox moving forward with this current rebuilding program, featuring a rotation of southpaws Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks and now, potentially, Carlos Rodon.

Now think about Rodon, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound left-handed standout from North Carolina State, making a push out of the bullpen during a late-season 2014 playoff run.

OK, maybe that thought process goes deeper than the average hypothetical situation. But with the White Sox selecting Rodon at No. 3 overall in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft on Thursday, suddenly last year's 99-loss nightmare that had them picking this high seems a bit more palatable.

While it was widely assumed that Brady Aiken was going No. 1 to Houston, which he did, many, including the White Sox, thought Rodon would go No. 2 to the Marlins. Hard-throwing high school right-hander Tyler Kolek instead ended up being the Marlins' pick, leaving Rodon as the consensus choice for the White Sox. He has been their consensus choice for two years.

Rodon posted a 6-7 record with a 2.01 ERA this past year for the Wolfpack, fanning 117 and walking 31 over 98 2/3 innings. The 21-year-old was named All-ACC First Team, holding opponents to a .229 average over 14 starts. He finished 25-10 with a 2.24 ERA, eight complete games, a school-record 436 strikeouts and a .201 opponents' average over his three years with N.C. State.

White Sox scouting director Doug Laumann mentioned the 6 2/3 scoreless innings Rodon threw against Cuba in last year's World Cup tournament, where he struck out 11, as one of his most impressive moments.

"He stepped up and threw as well as anybody could possibly expect from somebody in that setting," Laumann said.

MLB.com's Prospect Watch lists Rodon's scouting grades as a 65 for his fastball, a 70 for his slider, a 50 for his changeup, a 50 for control and a 65 overall.

That report states Rodon can overpower hitters with two pitches: a 91-94 mph fastball reaching 97 and a wipeout slider that hits the mid 80s. Laumann watched Rodon buckle left-handed hitters with that slider, and use it just as effectively against right-handed hitters.

"When they can bury a slider on the back foot of a right-handed hitter and get it in under his hands, then you know a guy has a really good one," Laumann said. "It's a dominant pitch. That's not to take away anything from his fastball and changeup, which are also plus pitches."

In the second round, the White Sox took right-hander Spencer Adams from White County High School in Georgia with the No. 44 overall selection.

The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at noon.

Based on additional comments made by White Sox assistant scouting director Nick Hostetler, Rodon sounds as if he brings more than vast pitching skills to the mound.

"He's an aggressive kid. He's a tough-nosed kid," Hostetler said recently of Rodon. "He's a very ... I don't know if bulldog is the right word, but he's in charge.

"You know he's in charge. When he's on the mound, he takes the ball and he controls the game. He's like that on the field, off the field. He's got a makeup that a manager is going to love running out there every fifth day."

Scott Boras serves as Rodon's representative, and the White Sox have not selected Boras' clients in recent Drafts. But general manager Rick Hahn, executive vice president Ken Williams and Laumann all have stated that they would take the best player available at No. 3, regardless of representation or whether he had college or high school experience.

This third overall pick is slotted at $5,721,500, although there was talk that Rodon, who has been projected as the No. 1 overall pick for some time, could want as much as the No. 1 slot money of $7,922,100. The White Sox have a bonus pool of $9,509,700.

While Laumann didn't address the possibility of spending over slot, he seemed completely confident they would get Rodon signed. In fact, Laumann talked about how important it was to get Rodon comfortable with the organization as the first step in the development process and never once referenced any doubt on him being part of the White Sox.

"Rick and Scott Boras have a fairly good relationship," Laumann said. "But we are excited No. 1, knowing how competitive this kid is, how important it is to be comfortable. We've laid a lot of ground work, spent a lot of time, spent time meeting with him. I'm confident we'll get it done. I'd be surprised if it doesn't happen."

One possible way to get Rodon in the fold quickly is the same approach taken with Chris Sale in 2010. Sale was selected with the 13th pick overall that year, and Williams and his staff recognized that Sale could provide needed help out of the bullpen in that same season. When the White Sox selected Sale, Williams told him, 'Congratulations, Chris. How quickly can you get ready?'

Sale made his Major League debut in relief two months after his pick, after pitching 10 1/3 innings combined for Class A Winston-Salem and Triple-A Charlotte. Sale was limited to 23 1/3 innings for the White Sox and 136 2/3 innings overall for the season when factoring in work at Florida Golf Coast University.

Adding more work to the arm of a college pitcher is far from a lock, especially as the organization tries to get him acclimated to big league life.

"We think he's an extremely talented pitcher, and he certainly could be a guy that is on a so-called fast track," Laumann said. "It would be somewhat unfair to say he's on the same track as Chris Sale. You never know. The most important thing is get started on getting him comfortable with our organization."

Of note is that Marty Warren, the father of Rodon's girlfriend, pitched in the White Sox's system in 1985-86.

So there is an established Rodon-White Sox connection. Their highest pick since selecting outfielder Harold Baines No. 1 overall in 1977 has a chance to make a far greater and more immediate impact.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.