Don’t feel bad if you misjudged Carlos Rodon in fantasy this spring. The White Sox botched it worse than anyone else did.
Carlos Rodon has reached a completely new level
For most of Rodon’s 20s, he was a fantasy baseball tease, a high-pedigree power arm who had trouble staying healthy. After a reasonable rookie year in 2015 (3.75 ERA over 139.1 innings), he hit the skids. His ERA from 2016-2020, inclusive, was an unplayable 4.28. The world is filled with buzzy prospects who never figure it out. He also had a Tommy John procedure in 2019.
It’s not uncommon for pitchers to come back stronger than ever after the elbow surgery, and that’s what Rodon did last year.
Finally, he figured it out.
He was limited to 24 starts, but they were terrific — 2.37 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 12.6 K/9. Rodon made the American League All-Star team, and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting. Finally, a career breakthrough at age 28 — and in a contract year, no less.
Well, it wasn’t supposed to be a contract year. The White Sox had an option on Rodon, the opportunity to tender him a contract. But after watching Rodon struggle with shoulder fatigue down the stretch last year, Chicago got cold feet. Rodon wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer, making him a free agent.
Enter the Giants, the miracle workers for pitchers at a mid-career crossroads. Rodon signed on for a two-year, $44 million hitch, and he’s been sensational this year.
Rodon didn’t pick up a decision in Monday’s 8-5 victory over the Rockies, but he nonetheless dominated again: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 12 K. He’s currently sitting on a 1.80 ERA and leads the majors in strikeouts and K/9. His 1.17 FIP is the lowest in the NL; even with zero homers allowed, we could argue that Rodon’s actually been a little unlucky.
His personal stat page is filled with plenty of career bests. The fastball readout is 96.4, a tick over last year. He’s getting swinging strikes 15.3 percent of the time and inducing more chases than ever (36 percent swings outside the zone). That’s where the strikeouts come from. That’s where the cheddar is.
Rodon's pitch mix has been slightly tweaked. He's scrapped his change, and he's throwing his other three pitches a little more (fastball, slider, curve). Lefties don’t have a chance against him (.091 average), but he doesn’t struggle in the platoon disadvantage (.182/.248/.242).
Durability is the last hurdle for Rodon to clear. He’s topped 140 innings just once, and that was six years ago. Perhaps the Giants will consider load management for Rodon as the season meanders along. This is a team with playoff designs, and it would like a healthy Rodon ready for October — and likely as its No. 1 starter.
Rodon carried a reasonable Yahoo ADP (87.3) during draft season. He was selected after Robbie Ray, Lance Lynn, Jose Berrios and Charlie Morton, among others. I suspect if we redrafted today, Rodon lands in the top-four rounds, or inside the top-12 starting pitchers.
It’s unrealistic to call any fantasy baseball player a League Winner — the season is too long and you need too many contributors. But if you’re considering right answers through the first month of the year, Rodon’s name ranks with the best.
He’s sabotaging the best hitters in the National League.