Blue Jays Battle of the Youngsters: Ryan Borucki vs. Carlos Rodon

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24: Carlos Rodon #55 of the Chicago White Sox pitches during the first inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on July 24, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 24: Carlos Rodon #55 of the Chicago White Sox pitches during the first inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on July 24, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

On Sunday, July 29, the Blue Jays will finish their short three game series in Chicago. The match-up will feature a battle of two youngsters: Ryan Borucki against Carlos Rodon.

Carlos Rodon, much like the past two starters against the Blue Jays, is a young, exciting pitcher. The lefty is the only one of the past three starters, to be drafted and developed by the White Sox. In fact, the 25-year-old was taken just four years ago, third overall in the 2014 amateur players draft.

Unlike Lopez and Giolito, the left-handed hurler has been quite good recently. While the past two starters have been somewhat weak in their past few outings, Sunday’s starter has started to establish recognition as the ace of the Chicago staff.

In his past three games, and in the month of July, he has given up just four earned runs over 21 complete innings pitched. The three teams he pitched against weren’t basement dwellers, either. He allowed two earned runs against the Astros, none against the Cardinals, and another two against the Angels.

Before he was churning through major league rosters, the left-handed hurler was dominating Triple-A this year. In just three starts he posted a 1.42 ERA, 1.02 FIP, and 15.63 K/9. The southpaw eventually made his major league debut this season on June 9th against the Red Sox.

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Despite battling inconsistency for most of his career, the lefty has found some steady performance this season—posting quality starts in four of his eight games. As well, he has gone at least five complete innings in each of his outings.

Overall, Rodon has quite strong numbers this season. Through eight starts he has posted a 3.38 ERA, 4.62 FIP, 1.105 WHIP, and 122 ERA+. As well, he has been worth a decent 0.4 fWAR for the campaign.

The southpaw keeps his pitch selection quite simple, mixing between a four seam fastball, slider, sinker, and change-up. Interestingly, this season has seen a sizable uptick in four seam fastball usage in comparison to past years.

The White Sox hurler has fired home four seam fastballs 44.86% of the time this season. The heater is decently fast, maintaining an average velocity of 93.77 mph. With its increased usage, the pitch has brought great results, allowing a paltry .214 BAA and .333 SLGA.

Rodon has thrown his slider 23.79% of the time this season. The pitch has sacrificed some use for the four seamer, dropping about three percent. The pitcher loves using his breaking ball with two strikes, but especially against left-handed hitters. When the lefty has worked his way to two strikes against a fellow lefty, he has thrown the breaking ball 55% of the time. Using the pitch with two strikes is understandable, given the fact that it has produced a great 41.98% whiff per swing rate. Finally, as if it needed to be any more dangerous, the pitch has only given up two hits this season—while striking out 21.

The left-hander has thrown a sinker 17.84% of the time this season. The sinking-fastball, is, amazingly, a little bit faster than the four seamer, posting an average velocity of 94.26 mph. However, the pitch has not been nearly as effective, coughing up a .302 BAA and .628 SLGA.

The southpaw completes his pitch offerings with a change-up, used 13.51% of the time this season. The off speed pitch has produced ground balls at an insane rate of 66.67% of balls in play—a curious result for a pitch normally used to produce swing-and-miss strikes. Either way, the change has been excellent, allowing a tiny .143 BAA.

On the surface, it seems that Rodon has finally lost his inconsistent ways—teams are even looking to trade for him now. However, his FIP tells a dangerous story of future regression. Much like how Reynaldo Lopez, who started on Friday, was due—and hit hard with—a bout of regression, the lefty will likely hit a slump at some point. Simply put, it is unsustainable to pitch to have a FIP almost one and a half runs higher than one’s ERA. Chicago’s starter also has some warning signs within his strikeout and walk numbers. While he has posted a decent 20.6% K-rate and 7.64 K/9, he has walked a ton of batters. Through eight starts he has managed a below average 9.6% BB-rate and 3.55 BB/9.

The Blue Jays have been excellent against the Florida native, in limited experience. Leading the way, Devon Travis has gone two-for-three against the lefty. As well, Kendrys Morales has produced three hits in nine at-bats—including a home run. However, both Randal Grichuk and Russell Martin have taken the collar against the White Sox hurler in three respective at-bats.

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The Blue Jays will play their third consecutive young starter on Sunday. With suspect peripheral numbers, the Blue Jays will look to begin a bout of regression destined for the young pitcher. As well, Ryan Borucki will look to build off of his strong start last time out.