The Wolfpacker

January 2014

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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T By Bruce Winkworth he last time anyone saw NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon on a pitcher's mound in a game that mattered, it was July 24 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Pitching for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team, Rodon thrilled a crowd of nearly 5,000 by thoroughly dominating the Cuban National Team for six and two-thirds shutout innings. Throwing strikes at will with three pitches, Rodon allowed just two hits, struck out 11 and did not allow a walk. He threw 81 pitches, 62 of them for strikes. He faced just one batter over the minimum. While that game may or may not be the best game Rodon ever pitched — he ranks it in his top five — it was his signature moment to date, the night he claimed center stage in the amateur baseball world as his own. Rodon as the early favorite to be taken first overall next June. Scouts aren't so willing to project how the draft will play out this far in advance, but all agree that Rodon has to be in that conversation. "I don't want to say that he won't go first overall because he could," one scout said. "But people need to remember that there's still an entire spring season to play, and it's just too soon to say with any certainty who will go in what order." With that qualifying comment out of the way, scouts universally give Rodon their highest marks. On a grading scale that ranges from 20 to 80, most grade his slider at 70 or even 80. His fastball and competitiveness usually draw 70s, and he gets 60s for command, for throwing strikes with multiple pitches. The slider gets the most attention. One scout called it the best slider he's ever seen Complete Command Junior Pitcher Carlos Rodon Is One Of The Top Prospects In The Nation, But He Is Focused On The Team's Success "That was one of those nights when everything was on," Rodon said. "Everything was working. It seemed like whatever I threw up there was right in the zone and they just couldn't hit it. It was one of those nights." Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 scouts from Major League Baseball teams, including several scouting directors and national cross-checkers, were in attendance that night in Durham. What they saw was possibly the best amateur pitcher on the planet at his very best. "He was so fun to watch that night that I found myself being more of a fan and just enjoying his performance instead of breaking down his tools," one major league scouting director said. "He had everything working. He put every pitch right where he wanted. He was pitching with such confidence. I was proud of how he represented himself, and how he represented the USA uniform. It was just a joy to watch." Most of the established media services that cover the MLB Draft — including Baseball America, ESPN's Scouts Inc. and Perfect Game USA — have projected from an amateur pitcher. The development of his slider, Rodon said, is the biggest difference between his all-state career at Holly Springs High School and his AllAmerica career at NC State. "I really kind of just used [the slider] as a get-me-over pitch in high school," Rodon said. "I got here and [pitching coach Tom] Holliday said to throw it as hard as I can. I said okay, let's see how it works. It took a while, but eventually it was a hammer. Now, I can throw that pitch any time I want, any count, doesn't matter what the situation is." Combine that slider with all the rest of Rodon's attributes and you have something very special. "When the ball crosses home plate, he may be about as good as any pitcher I've seen," another scout said. "He pitches at 94 [miles per hour]. He's left-handed. He's super competitive. The best pitcher In five postseason starts in 2013, Rodon was 2-1 with a 1.09 ERA, struck out 47, walked seven, and allowed 23 hits and seven runs (five earned) in 411⁄3 innings. photo by Larry blankenship 50  ■  the wolfpacker 50-53.Carlos Rodon.indd 50 12/5/13 3:37 PM

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