They didn’t think Carlos Rodon would be there at No. 3, but when he was the White Sox didn’t hesitant to grab him.
The White Sox selected the prized North Carolina State junior left-handed pitcher with the third pick in the 2014 amateur baseball draft on Thursday night.
Amateur scouting director Doug Laumann said the team’s pre-draft information suggested the Miami Marlins would use the second pick to nab Rodon, whom he said the White Sox have targeted since early in the 2013 season. But the Marlins surprised everyone and drafted Texas preps pitcher Tyler Kolek, leaving the White Sox with their first choice.
Laumann said even though Rodon didn’t have the “dominant” season everyone predicted — he went 6-7 with a 2.01 ERA and struck out 117 batters in 98 2/3 innings — the White Sox love the way he has developed.
In 2013, Rodon made himself a strong contender to be the first pick when he struck out 184 batters in 132 1/3 innings as a sophomore. San Diego prep left-hander Brady Aiken was selected first overall by the Houston Astros.
“We were surprised,” Laumann said. “We had pretty good information throughout the process here, especially the last couple of days, it sounded like he was going to be gone. Sometimes these things go sideways for one way or another, and I think we found out right after the first pick and leading to the second pick.
“We watched the progression over several years and thought he was the consensus best guy on the board.”
Thought to be the most polished pitcher in the draft, Rodon is believed to be the player who could reach the major leagues the fastest. Armed with a good slider/fastball combination, one American League scout called Rodon “one of the top 10 pitchers on the planet” in the spring.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said Wednesday he liked all four of the pitchers the club was looking at.
“The closest to the big leagues is Rodon,” Cooper said.
Some around the White Sox have suggested Rodon could pitch in the majors as a reliever later this season the same way Chris Sale did after he was drafted in 2010. While Laumann said it’s unfair to put Rodon on “the Sale track,” it is feasible the 21-year-old could pitch in Chicago in 2014.
“With the type of fastball and slider he has, certainly could be a guy is on a so-called fast track,” Laumann said. “The most important thing is we get start on getting him comfortable with the organization.”
To do that, Rodon would need to sign soon.
One aspect that worried some clubs about Rodon is that super agent Scott Boras represents him. But Laumann and the White Sox believe they have done a good job getting to know Rodon — the team’s first top-5 selection since Alex Fernandez (1990) — and are confident they’ll sign him soon.
Some reports suggest Boras is interested in a signing bonus similar to what Aiken is expected to receive for being the first overall pick.
Were they not able to sign Rodon, the White Sox would receive the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft.
But Laumann sounds confident, almost as if that result would be as much of a shock as it was for Rodon to fall into their laps.
“Personally I don’t (have reservations about signability),” Laumann said. “It’s our goal to get the most talented player that’s available at the spot. I think Rick (Hahn) and Scott Boras have a fairly good relationship.
“We’re excited because No. 1 we know how competitive this kids is and we know how important it is for him to be comfortable with an organization. We’ve laid a lot of groundwork. We’ve spent a lot of time with him over the winter. We’re real confident we’re going to get this done.
“I’d be surprised if it didn’t happen.”