Editor's Note: Fish Stripes would like to welcome Andrew Snyder as the newest member of our prospect team! We are in the process of redesigning our prospect coverage to provide the best view of the Marlins' farm system for you readers, and Andrew is going to play an excellent role in that. Give him a warm welcome in the comments, and let him know what you think of Carlos Rodon! -MJ
Name: Carlos Rodon
Age and School: 21, North Carolina State University
Weight: 234 lbs.
Position: Starting pitcher
The Marlins find themselves in an enviable position in this year's Major League Baseball Rule Four Draft. Holding the number two pick puts them in a place where they have several options, depending on what the Houston Astros decide to do with this year's number one overall pick. The Astros will likely be choosing between the left-handed high school pitcher from California, Brady Aiken, and North Carolina State ace Carlos Rodon.
If the Astros go the more frugal route and take Aiken, the Marlins will have a chance to draft a player who, until March, was considered the hands down best prospect in the draft by front offices and analysts alike. Rumors suggest that if Rodon falls to them at number two they will likely be choosing between him and high school catcher Alex Jackson. Is Rodon good enough to pass up the potential of a power hitter at a position where that is so scarce?
Rodon is a 6 foot 2, 234 pound left-handed pitcher, and probably the best pitcher in North Carolina State baseball history. He throws an explosive fastball that sits 93-95 when he is at his best; a devastating slider that is unhittable when he is commanding it, and a changeup that is a work in progress. He has been able to almost exclusively rely on his fastball, and slider combination to get college hitters out, so he has not had a chance to develop that changeup. His slider is so good he could still likely find success with only two pitches, but to reach his potential as a future ace he will likely need to develop that changeup, if only to combat the stress a high number of sliders would put on his arm.
After sliding to the 16th round in the 2011 draft due to back issues, and a strong desire to play college and baseball, he began his freshman season at North Carolina State. Rodon burst onto the scene his freshman season by going 9-0 with a 1.57 ERA, and striking out 135 batters in 114 2/3 innings. He was also named a finalist for the Golden Spikes award, which is given to college baseball's best player.
He struggled early during his sophomore season, following up his stellar freshman campaign by posting an ERA more than a run higher at 2.99. Rodon had issues with his command early in the season, but righted the ship just in time to help guide his team to a College World Series appearance.
That summer he further grabbed the attention of scouts with his performance on the Team USA collegiate team, most notably in a game against Cuba where Rodon absolutely dominated. The professional Cuban hitters were severely overmatched that day and helpless against Rodon's slider. The left-hander struck out eleven in 6 2/3 scoreless innings and was only removed due to a predetermined pitch count. After that performance scouts and analysts gushed about Rodon and many claimed they could not see anyone being drafted over him in the 2014 draft.
This past season, the idea that Rodon would be not the number one overall pick began to creep up. A repeat of command struggle early in the season, and the emergence of Brady Aiken brings us to where we are today, with the Astros seriously considering taking a high school pitcher number one overall for the first time in the history of the draft. Despite his struggles, Rodon still struck out 10.7 batters per nine innings, and finished his final season with an ERA of only 2.01. For all the concerns about his command he was still one of the best pitchers in college baseball this season.
The other area of concern is his high usage in college. Several times this season Rodon pitched deep into games, reaching pitch counts in the 120's and even 130's. With the recent rash of elbow injuries throughout baseball, the Marlins may be wary of taking someone with that many miles already on his arm. It should be noted that Rodon is a strong kid who often holds his velocity deep into his outings. However, with Jose Fernandez having just undergone Tommy John surgery, the Marlins should take note of Rodon's burden.
The only other issue is the large bonus he will likely demand as a Scott Boras client. He has not publicly stated what he will ask for when drafted, but the thought is that it will be above slot value. There are obviously a few concerns, but if the Astros pass on Rodon, I think the Marlins will and should jump at the chance to take him. His potential is worth paying that high bonus, rather than settling for a lesser player just to save money.
If Rodon reaches anywhere close to his potential, the Marlins will have a second ace on their hands. If he stays healthy and avoids the command issues that sometimes plague him, there is little doubt that he would develop into one of the best pitchers in baseball. His raw stuff and impressive track record should be enough to overlook the various concerns. Alex Jackson is also a tempting possibility, but the Marlins taking the huge risk of drafting a high school catcher that high instead of a near major league ready college pitcher seems unlikely.
The thought of a future rotation with Jose Fernandez, Andrew Heaney, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and Carlos Rodon is too good to pass up. I trust that the front office knows that, and if given the opportunity will take Rodon. He is likely to be a fast mover through the minor leagues, and could even reach the major leagues by next season. Now, have the Astros fallen in love with Brady Aiken enough to make this scenario possible? That is the $7.9 million question.