Rick Hahn is the man with the White Sox’ plan. Over the past year, ever since the 2013 team blew up in front of our eyes, we have slowly but very surely been let in on more and more of that master plan.
As far as major pieces go, first it was Avisail Garcia brought in to man right field and slug in the middle of the order. Slugger Jose Abreu and prospect Matt Davidson were acquired as cornerstones of the club’s infield of the future to go along with the slue of talented middle infielders impressing throughout the organization’s minor league ranks. Leadoff man Adam Eaton was mixed in as the icing on the cake.
The White Sox have been lacking legitimate position player prospects for years, so it’s been great to see so many questions of that regard be answered, seemingly with the blink of an eye. But Hahn’s main focus has not shifted.
That focus is still on what gave us the first White Sox World Series championship in 88 years nine seasons ago: building a dominant pitching staff.
Let’s be clear – when we say dominant, we mean dominant … Hahn wants to have ‘baseball’s rotation of the future’, if you will. And even before this season got underway, we knew that plan was off to a phenomenal start.
Chris Sale is a bonafide ace. Jose Quintana is an extremely solid top-half of the rotation arm. And best of all, they’re both just 25 and already signed to long-term, team-friendly contracts (if you need a refresher on those deals, click here and here).
As bad as 2013 sucked, and as we all remember it sucked pretty damn hard, silver linings continue to come out of the woodwork.
First it was the team being able/forced to hit the reset button, which was obviously much needed. So far so good on that front, as Hahn’s “out with the old, in with the new” wave has panned out well throughout its early-goings.
But the most tangible benefit to the 99-loss disaster that was 2013 fell into Hahn’s hands on Thursday, June 5, 2014 … a night we hope will live in infamy on the south side for years to come.
With the third pick in the first round of the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the White Sox selected 6’3, 234 lb. southpaw Carlos Rodon out of North Carolina State. Long thought to be the gem of his draft class, in the end he saw two talented high school pitchers drafted ahead of him, something the organization couldn’t have been happier about.
And it’s not to say Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek, the duo taken ahead of Rodon, aren’t extremely intriguing prospects … because they are. It’s just that a polished college pitcher clearly fits into the White Sox’ timeline best.
Most of the young talent Hahn & co. have invested in over the last several months have been guys that are already in the major leagues or aren’t too far away. With the focus of that young-but-big league-ready rebuild on the pitching staff, it’d be in the team’s best interest to capitalize on the great years Sale and Quintana are already giving them.
Rodon is indeed a polished prospect, and he’ll have a shot to make it to the big league club the same year he was drafted, just like Sale did in 2010. Chris made his big league debut out of the bullpen in early August, helping the team immensely through a playoff race.
It may not be wise to fully expect this to happen with Rodon, as it’s still not the most common path teams have their college arms take. As you’ll remember, Sale stuck in the bullpen all the way through the 2011 season. His journey had a lot to do with the team wanting to get a feel for and not overuse such a lanky kid with a very unique delivery.
Chances are, Rodon’s path will differ from Sale’s in at least one way or another. Maybe we won’t see him on the south side until 2015. Maybe they’ll never use him out of the bullpen. Or maybe they’ll call him up to start next week.
There’s no way of knowing exactly what the team’s plan for Rodon is just yet (and no, he’s not going to be starting next week, because I know somebody took that seriously). Point is, if all the hype over the 21 year old turns out to be even somewhat justified, he’ll be helping the White Sox at the major league level before long … possibly upwards of three or four years before a high school arm would’ve been able to.
We know that Sale and Quintana are going to be vital pieces of the dominant pitching staff that the White Sox want down the road. And with Rodon aboard, that rotation we all dream of may not only be closer to materializing than we thought it was just a couple of days ago, but also more dominant.
Sure, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez will steal the headlines when they return to their teams next season. And sure, the Tigers three-headed monster in their rotation is still the best you’ll find.
But when you look juuust a little bit down the line, it’s hard to find a team that has a young, affordable, and potentially dominant rotation shaping up much more-so than the White Sox do. And that is something to get excited about.