Carlos Rodón has started on the right track to becoming the pitcher the Yankees need.

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When it was announced that Gerrit Cole would be on the injured list for a substantial period of time, there was a slight feeling of hopelessness about the Yankees’ rotation. After all, Cole had been their only consistent pitcher throughout the 2023 season. In order to get around Cole’s injury for the time being, the Yankees needed everyone in the rotation to step up, and outside of a few bumps, everyone has, especially Carlos Rodón.

Rodón had a terrible first year with the Yankees, to put it mildly. He was not the pitcher that general manager Brian Cashman had envisioned as the second ace in the rotation. Coming into 2024, he needed to prove that he could still be the pitcher the Yankees thought they were signing. So far, he has put together a strong body of work.

Before we dive into said body of work, it’s worth pointing out a few caveats. First, obviously, it’s still early. Three games is not much to look at. It’s enough of a sample size to get a little bit of data to work with (and, of course, the eye test is always going to be helpful), but anything can happen from here on out.

It’s also important to mention that the Yankees still need Rodón to go deeper into games. So far, he has pitched 4.1, 5.1, and 6.0 innings, and the six-inning game came against the lowly Miami Marlins. Rodón, of course, was still ramping up coming out of spring training in those opening starts, but some added length as we work through the season would be helpful.

All that said, there are some pieces of Rodón’s first three starts that are very encouraging and indicate that he just might be game for holding up the Yankee rotation in Cole’s absence.

Below is his 2024 MLB Percentile rankings via Baseball Savant:

Carlos Rodón Percentile Ranking (3 appearances) Baseball Savant

The best and most-used part of Rodón’s arsenal has come back to life, with his fastball surging up to the 98th percentile in run value.

For reference, here are Rodón’s percentile rankings from last season. The fastball is much, much better:

Carlos Rodón 2023 Percentile Rankings Baseball Savant

Not only is Rodón’s fastball back to looking like it’s back to being the focal point of a great arsenal, as the velocity and spin are both improved, but he’s also looking like more than a two-pitch pitcher.

He’s mixed in changeups, cutters, and curves with some frequency in the early going, giving him more options to turn over lineups than just his bread-and-butter fastball/slider combo.

Last season, his fastball wasn’t performing well at all, meaning when his slider wasn’t at the top of its game (which was often), he didn’t have anything to rely on. But now, he has options.

Location has also played a big part in Rodón’s results so far this season. Below is his heat map of pitches so far in 2024:

Carlos Rodón pitch heatmap so far in 2024 FanGraphs

And here is his heat map from the entirety of 2023:

Carlos Rodón pitch heatmap 2023 FanGraphs

There are some slight differences in how Rodón is locating his pitches. Last season, control was a bit of an issue, as his walk rate was his highest since 2019 with the Chicago White Sox. This season, though, Rodón has been able to hover around the shadow of the zone more, a place where he failed to execute in 2023.

In 2022, the run value for Rodón in the shadow of the zone was +21, and in 2023, that run value decreased to -12. He earned about four percent more swings in the shadow of the zone and five percent more than the league average, which contributed to his incredible strikeout rates.

In all, the results have been where they needed to be. He’s pitching to the tune of a 1.72 ERA, though the peripherals are a bit concerning, with his FIP sitting at 4.57 and xFIP at 5.01. There’s bound to be some regression, but if that can happen after Cole returns, it would help the Yankees in a huge way.

Refining his cutter and changeup use could go a long way toward counteracting any incoming regression. Neither has generated great results yet, but continuing to work them into his repertoire could be crucial as the season progresses.

Rodón’s success to this point has primarily been driven by his fastball coming back to life, and he’s done well to get out of his tough spots by bearing down and blowing it by opposing hitters. He’ll likely need to do more to keep up these kinds of results, but the added depth to his arsenal hints at the possibility that he’s continuing to evolve as a pitcher. Rodón needed to get off to a good start here, and he has. There are holes, but there are ways to patch them. Keep an eye on those offspeed pitches and that cutter to see how they progress through the year, and if Rodón can use them to keep pacing the Yankee rotation all summer.