It’s no secret that the Chicago White Sox had an impressive, efficient offseason. A lot of attention went to their additions of right-hander Jeff Samardzija, closer David Robertson, outfielder Melky Cabrera, first baseman Adam LaRoche and even lefty reliever Zach Duke. And deservedly so.

But the final piece to what could be the most improved team in 2015 isn’t even going to be on the Opening Day roster.

Even after a dominant showing in spring training in which he allowed 17 hits and six runs in 17.2 innings with an impressive 21-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, left-hander Carlos Rodon will begin the year at Triple-A. 

How long the White Sox keep him down, though, is going to be a big factor in the club’s ability to contend—and perhaps even win the AL Central—after a pair of disappointing seasons in 2013 and 2014.

Although Rodon already may be one of Chicago’s five best starting pitchers, having him begin the year down in Charlotte isn’t a bad idea for a handful of reasons.

For one, although he did zoom to Triple-A just months after being selected No. 3 overall last June, Rodon has all of 24.1 innings as a pro under his belt. There’s no need to rush him just yet, even if he is nearly big league-ready.

For another, Rodon does have a few things to work on, namely fastball command and his changeup to pair with his already killer slider.

“Everyone has now seen how devastating his slider can be,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a recent media session. “He’s shown very good command of his fastball at times. Now it’s a matter of getting the changeup where it needs to be.”

Hahn continued by emphasizing that Rodon “is going to help us, one way or another, in Chicago in the not-too-distant future.”

It’s rather evident that Rodon will impact the White Sox—and quite likely the division race—this season, whether that means pitching in the rotation or even out of the bullpen. Either way, the 22-year-old should make his presence felt.

Stashing Rodon in the minors also allows the White Sox to keep both a literal and figurative ace in the hole until the team determines it’s time to unleash its new weapon on the rest of what should be a highly competitive Central.

Although the Detroit Tigers have dominated the division four years running and the Kansas City Royals made it all the way to the World Series, neither club can be considered a sure thing heading into 2015.

The Tigers’ bullpen remains a potential pitfall (again), and their once-heralded rotation lost Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Plus, former ace Justin Verlander is not only in decline but is also now about to be on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

As for the Royals, they’ll be without James Shields, their No. 1 starter the past two years, or Billy Butler, the homegrown designated hitter who spent most of his time as the team’s cleanup hitter in 2014.

Speaking of the Royals, Rodon flat-out owned them in his second-to-last spring outing March 25 when he whiffed (count ’em) nine batters in just four innings without issuing a walk.

And, sure, the Cleveland Indians are getting hyped as a championship-caliber club, but if anything, that only furthers the point: The AL Central is wide open.

For now, the back of Chicago’s five-man consists of lefty John Danks, who is coming off of an awful 2014 (4.74 ERA, 1.44 WHIP), and right-hander Hector Noesi, who is pretty much the embodiment of a stopgap starter (5.16 ERA in parts of four MLB seasons).

In other words, once Rodon shows he’s really ready, not only to debut but to also be an impact arm, he’ll get his shot.

Add Rodon to a rotation that already features hard-throwing newcomer Samardzija sandwiched by two lefties in the often-unhittable Chris Sale and hugely underrated Jose Quintana, and the White Sox have the makings of a one-through-four that can match up with any other rotation in the Junior Circuit.

That, combined with a revamped lineup that now includes Cabrera and LaRoche around reigning AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu, one of the game’s best all-around hitters, makes the White Sox a team that could make some noise in the Central.

And maybe, with Rodon’s help, even win it.


Statistics are accurate through Wednesday, April 1, and courtesy of, and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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