7-Word Scouting Report: Monster Lefty, Impressive 3-Pitch Mix, Devastating Slider
One of the premier pitching prospects in the past decade, North Carolina State LHP Carlos Rodon struggled to live up to his outstanding reputation against the University of Maryland last Friday. On a chilly evening against the Terps, Rodon pitched only 4.2 innings, allowing 8 runs (all unearned) on 6 hits, striking out 8 and walking 4 – he also hit 2 batters during his outing.
My immediate first impression of Rodon is his outstanding pitcher’s frame, listed at 6-3 230lbs, with some projection left in his lower half. He is physically imposing on the mound, with a quiet, confident demeanor and swagger. His delivery, both from the windup and the stretch, is relatively quiet, compact, and relatively square to the plate throughout his motion. His arm speed is particularly impressive, though he does not have much deception because he is so linear through his motion. Overall, his measurables and his pitching mechanics appear to be excellent.
Friday night Rodon struggled mightily with his fastball command, which along with an inconsistent strike zone from the umpire, forced him to throw 116 pitches in this appearance. His fastball consistently sat 90-92mph on my radar gun, topping out at 93mph, being on the higher end of this range from the windup, and slightly slower from the stretch. Rodon’s slider was as advertised, 86-88mph with sharp break, and had me biting my tongue to avoid the little leaguers around me from learning new curse words. Finally Rodon featured a quality, but inconsistent 80-82mph changeup with good arm action and some sink away from righties.
I have seen Rodon pitch on numerous occasions before, and in spite of his subpar performance Friday night, he showed glimpses of why he is a legitimate top of the draft prospect. His pure physical size, 92mph fastball, and solid left-handed pitching mechanics immediately make him a quality prospect. But the true difference-maker is his slider, one of the nastiest breaking pitches I have seen in person and certainly the best I have seen at the collegiate level. It is a truly masterful pitch.
On the other hand, I would not be telling the whole story if I did not mention my concern with his lack of fastball command on Friday. It is also noteworthy that his velocity sat 90-92mph all night, topping out at 93mph, down from his reported 93-97mph in the past. It was a cold evening in College Park Friday, and we are still early in the college season, but for a player expected to be selected #1 overall in June, his poor fastball command and diminished velocity is concerning.
Nevertheless, Rodon is the most talented and complete collegiate pitcher I have ever seen in person, and his talent should not let him slip outside the top-5 picks in June. And if Rodon is able to find his previous fastball command and velocity as the draft approaches, he stands an excellent chance at being the first pick overall. With all due respect to the Public Enemy, I do “Believe The Hype” when it comes to Carlos Rodon.