Carlos Rodon is attempting a very rare transition. Less than a year removed from starting at North Carolina State, Rodon is attempting to navigate major-league lineups at just 22 years old. Only Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Michael Pineda, and Julio Teheran have pitched 150 innings in rookie seasons at Rodon’s age or younger in the past five years. Rodon has now made six appearances in the majors after making only nine in the minors. His 22.1 major-league innings have already surpassed the 22.0 innings he pitched in Triple-A since signing with the White Sox last summer for over $6 million after the team made him the number three pick in the draft. Rodon’s slider and fastball are major-league ready, but he has yet to challenge hitters consistently or rely on an offspeed pitch, leading to almost a walk per inning. Rodon is already the White Sox’ fourth-best starter behind Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, and Jose Quintana, but he is not yet a finished product and still has some development ahead of him in the majors.
Rodon has the potential to accomplish a feat even more rare than the one performed by Fernandez, Miller, et al. No pitcher in the last 15 years has been drafted from college, made their debut within a year of signing and pitched at least 150 innings at 22 years of age or younger. The last player to achieve what Rodon is attempting was Jeff Weaver in 1999 for the Detroit Tigers. Weaver made 29 starts, had a 5.55 ERA and 5.22 FIP on the way to a 1.6 WAR season. In the last 30 years, the only other pitchers to do the same were Jim Abbott in 1989, Bobby Witt in 1986, and someone White Sox fans should remember, Jack McDowell, who made his debut shortly after the draft in 1987 and made 26 starts in 1988 for the White Sox before winning the Cy Young four years later.