Today’s USA Collegiate National Team vs the Cuban National Team game sprung upon me. I remember hearing about the series at some point, but I saw a tweet from Ben Badler with the streaming link, and saw that Carlos Rodon was on the hill. Link = Clicked.
Carlos Rodon is a rising Junior LHP at NC State, who will be eligible in the upcoming 2014 First-Year Player Draft. Rodon burst on to the scene as a freshman, pitching NC State into the Super Regionals, and becoming a Golden Spikes Award finalist. I’ve seen Rodon before in a rain shortened start at the University of Florida for the 2012 Gainesville Super Regional. From the limited amount I saw of him then, I could tell that the hype was real, and he was legit.
The ERA hike jumps out at you, but how easy is it to repeat a year with a 1.57 ERA? Teams were prepared for Rodon this year. There’s no way to know for sure if that affected him, but he still put up one heck of a 2013 season. He tied for the most Games Started, was 3rd in Innings Pitches, and led the NCAA in strikeouts. On to productivity rates, his K/9 climbed, and BB/9 fell. That is exactly what you wanted to see from Rodon this year. His command is improving, which proves that he’s on an upward trajectory. The reason for Rodon’s spike in 2013? Luck. Many people try and stay away from BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) because of it’s unpredictability, but I love it. In my opinion, BABIP proves if a guy is truly preforming to his ability or not. Rodon’s BABIP climbed by 50 points in his Sophomore year, within the average .290-.310 range. This brings us back to the point made earlier, Rodon wasn’t a secret anymore. He benefited from being an unknown, developing superstar as a freshman, but as teams figured him out (relatively speaking), he regressed towards his true ability. In my opinion, Rodon’s true ability is still superior to any other college arm I’ve ever seen (in person). He’s the top college prospect for the 2014 draft. Barring an injury, or surprising decline, that is unlikely to change. However, he will be battling for that spot with other Team USA players, Vanderbilt RHP Tyler Beede, and his NC State teammate, SS Trea Turner.
Side note: Rodon only gave up 4 doubles in 2013? How crazy is that!
Rodon vs Cuba
Rodon was dominant in the first, retiring the Cuban offense in order, capped by a weak groundball to short by superstar Yulieski Gourriel. I unfortunately missed Rodon’s second inning of work because I had to take my laundry out of the dryer. #CollegeKidProblems I can’t be walking around the MLB offices in wrinkled clothes! Rodon stayed consistent in the the 3rd, and faced the first batter in the 4th. He was then pulled due to being on a strict pitch count tonight. His line: 3 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 R.
I had to deal with an unfortunate camera angle, so movement was hard to decipher. But, here are my grades on Rodon from what I could see.
Fastball velocity courtesy of this tweet from Patrick Ebert. Rodon impressed, and shut down a high-powered, dynamic Cuban offense. The only concern I had was control, which seems weird considering his manageable BB/9. Rodon seemed a little shaky pitching to his arm side low in the zone. Often times he either missed a spot arm-side for a ball, or missed an inside location which put the ball over the plate. From what I saw, no Cuban hitter was able to jump on one of those mistakes, but this could cause problems at the professional level. Nevertheless, Rodon is a first-rounder, and if he can be more precise low in the zone, he will be without a doubt your #1 overall pick.