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Carlos Rodon Signs With the San Francisco Giants - Fantasy Baseball Impact

Man, how good does it feel to have baseball back to normal? With players heading to Spring Training, free agents signing deals and some significant trades going down, this past week has been quite a spectacle to witness after the complete silence of the past few months. 

One of the first major pitching acquisitions to occur post-lockout happened in San Francisco, where the Giants inked Carlos Rodon to a two-year deal. As a White Sox fan, it does hurt seeing Rodon leaving after he appeared to finally have put everything together. However, given his injury history, it’s hard to tell if his 2021 performance is a sign of the new normal for Rodon or just a flash in the pan. 

So in order to really get a good idea of what’s in store for Rodon in 2022, we’ll have to look at both his injury history and how much or how little of an outlier his numbers were last year.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Arm of Glass

You can’t evaluate Rodon without talking about his injuries. He’s had several arm and shoulder injuries over the past few years — including Tommy John surgery in 2019 — and from 2017 through 2020 he pitched a total of 232.1 innings over 41 starts and two relief outings. Even while posting the best numbers of his career last season, Rodon once again was dealing with arm issues that hampered him late in the season. 

So at this point, Rodon has reached 100 innings pitched four times in his seven-year career, and his 132.2 innings last season were his most since 2016. Combine a larger workload last season with an abbreviated Spring Training this year, and managers would not be unwise to have some concern as to how his arm will hold up in 2022. Obviously injuries aren’t something that you can necessarily predict, but given his history, it is worth taking some level of caution when it comes to drafting him this year. 


Fluke or Sign of the Future?

Simply put, 2021 was the best season of his career. A 13-5 record, 2.37 ERA, 0.957 WHIP, and 34.6 percent strikeout rate all shattered his previous career-bests, as he earned his first All-Star appearance and finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting. 

Quite an impressive year after throwing only 42.1 innings combined over his previous two seasons. 

And looking at his advanced metrics, once again he set a bunch of career-bests in 2021, including a 2.68 xERA, .189 xBA and .254 xwOBA. Basically just about every one of his advanced metrics suggest that his performance last year was mostly legitimate. But what exactly caused this sudden jump in production? It’s not simply due to him being healthy for most of the season, because three times before he had pitched at least 120 innings in a season and had never put up numbers anywhere close to his 2021 marks. Instead, it appears that at least part of his success was due to increased command and usage of his fastball.

Last year, he used his fastball a career-high 58.7 percent of the time — up from 51.1 percent in 2020. And not only did his usage increase, so did his velocity, as his 95.4 mph fastball average was up 2.6 mph from his 2020 campaign and up 1.4 mph from his previous career-high of 94 mph in 2016. That increased velocity definitely contributed in part to his success on the mound. Just take a look at the breakdown of his fastball since 2017:

  • 2021: 29.7% whiff rate, 29.9% strikeout rate, 25.4% putaway rate
  • 2020: 14.3 % whiff rate, 12.5% strikeout rate, 12.5% putaway rate
  • 2019: 12.9% whiff rate, 14.3% strikeout rate, 13.9% putaway rate
  • 2018: 13.6% whiff rate, 8.9% strikeout rate, 11.5% putaway rate
  • 2017: 19.7% whiff rate, 22.8% strikeout rate, 23.8% putaway rate

So looking at the numbers and the metrics, it does appear that Rodon’s 2021 is fairly legitimate. But where does that leave managers come draft day?


Fantasy Bottom Line

Right now, Rodon is currently sitting him at an ADP of 128, which among pitchers places him in between Blake Snell (116) and Tyler Mahle (130). Given Rodon’s injury history, that seems to be a pretty fair ranking. But even with that history, managers might want to look at taking Rodon over Snell and over Giovanny Gallegos (ADP 116), as Rodon could be slightly undervalued by those who think 2021 wasn't legit. Even if Rodon regresses somewhat to closer to a 3.00 ERA and 1.300 WHIP, he should still provide some great strikeout value in any format.

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