White Sox Select NC State’s Rodon with #1 Pick

The White Sox aren’t yet going to determine just how fast Carlos Rodon could make the journey to pitching at U.S. Cellular Field.

But with the selection of the North Carolina State left-handed pitcher at No. 3 overall in the baseball draft Thursday night, the Sox picked a player they believe can help them win sooner rather than later.

“Whether or not it’s on the fast track like Chris Sale, or somebody else, we fully expect Carlos would be able to help contribute to our club and win a championship with the core of players that we have on the cusp right now, rather than perhaps somebody we are going to have to wait four, five, six years down the line for,” said Doug Laumann, Sox director of amateur scouting.

Laumann said the Sox had targeted a trio of pitchers since January — high school hurlers Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek and Rodon, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior who went 25-10 with a 2.24 ERA, eight complete games and 436 strikeouts in his three-year career for the Wolfpack.

The Astros selected Aiken first overall, and the Marlins followed with Kolek. That left Rodon, a player Sox pitching Don Cooper said Wednesday looked to be the most major-league ready of the bunch.

The last time the Sox took a pitcher in the first round was when they selected Sale 13th overall in 2010. He joined the Sox in early August of that season and took a spot in the bullpen before transitioning to be a starter in 2012.

Laumann said it’s a little unfair to project that type of journey on Rodon just yet and said the Sox’s focus right now is making sure Rodon grows comfortable with the organization.

First, they have to sign him.

Rodon’s adviser is agent Scott Boras, who often commands high prices for his clients, but Laumann said he would be surprised if they aren’t able to sign Rodon, who’s draft position is slotted for roughly $5.72 million. He said the Sox spent time with him over the winter and “laid a lot of groundwork” in building a relationship with the player from Holly Springs, N.C.

“(General manager Rick Hahn) and Scott Boras have a fairly good relationship,” Laumann said. “We’ve had some major league free agents we’ve dealt with. … We’re real confident we’re going to get him done.”

The Sox kept their eye on Rodon since he was a senior in high school. Laumann said one of Rodon’s more impressive feats was his performance last summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.

Considered by many to be the potential No. 1 pick at the beginning of the year, his stock dropped a bit after he went 6-7 with a 2.01 ERA and 117 strikeouts over 982/3 innings in his junior season at N.C. State.

“He didn’t have maybe the really dominant type of year that we expected, but at the same time you have to consider the history you have,” Laumann said. “This isn’t just a one-month or one-year process. We watch their progress over several years, and for those reasons we thought he was the consensus best guy on the board.”

Laumann called Rodon’s fastball and changeup plus pitches but called his slider “a dominant pitch.”

“You would expect a (left-handed hitter) is going to have trouble with it, but when they can bury a slider on the back foot of a right-handed hitter and get it in under their hands and things like that, then you know a guy has a really good one,” Laumann said.

Rodon became the Sox’s highest draft pick since Harold Baines was selected No. 1 in 1977.

In the second round, the Sox added another pitcher with the 44th overall pick — right-hander Spencer Adams from White County High School in Cleveland, Ga.

Adams, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound Georgia recruit, was ranked the nation’s 23rd best prospect and the second from the state of Georgia, by Baseball America. He had an 0.72 ERA and 90 strikeouts in his senior season.

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