Carlos Rodon needs Tommy John surgery as White Sox's bad fortune with young starters continues
Rodon won't return until the second half of the 2020 season
In theory, the 2019 White Sox could have had a trio of young, frontline starting pitchers heading up their rotation. Instead, the White Sox have announced that lefty Carlos Rodon needs season-ending Tommy John surgery. It was a harsh reminder just how badly things have gone on this front for the South Siders.
Rodon, 26, was the third overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft and was generally thought of as a can't-miss prospect. Prior to the 2015 season, MLB.com ranked him as the 14th-best prospect in baseball. He's shown flashes of brilliance in his MLB career, but sustained, consistent success has been elusive. He finishes 2019 with a 3-2 record, a 5.19 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. He struck out 46 in 34 1/2 innings and the FIP looked good at 3.52, but overall he's just allowing too many baserunners and runs. And now he won't be back until the second half of 2020 (the White Sox announced this as his official timeline).
The other two frontline hopefuls were Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito.
Kopech, 23, came over in the Chris Sale trade and MLB.com still lists him as a top-20 prospect. He came up last August and had a 0.82 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and nine strikeouts in 11 innings through his first three starts before a total meltdown when he was pitching with an elbow injury that would lead to his having Tommy John surgery. In his 126 1/3 innings in Triple-A before promotion, the fireballer had 170 strikeouts.
Giolito, 24, came over in the Adam Eaton trade. He was once ranked as high as third overall in prospect rankings by MLB.com. In 32 starts in 2018, though, he was 10-13 with a 6.13 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and led the AL in earned runs and walks. He only struck out 125 in 173 1/3 innings. Giolito, however, is in a nice stretch right now. In his last four outings, he has a 1.64 ERA and 28 strikeouts against seven walks in 22 innings. He might be turning a corner.
Giolito and Kopech are still plenty young and Rodon has time to work into, say, a number three big-league starter once he's fully back from Tommy John surgery.
It's just that had these three reached their upside by now and avoided major injuries, the White Sox would have a real shot at contending in the AL Central this season. Instead, Rodon needs Tommy John surgery, Kopech is recovering from him and I'm clinging to Giolito's last four outings.
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