Come award season in November, there is a pretty reasonable chance Chicago will sweep the MLB Rookie Of The Year awards, with mega prospects Kris Bryant, Carlos Rodon, and Jorge Soler all having legitimate chances to produce at the highest level in 2015.
For at least the first couple weeks of the season, however, two of these players will be in AAA. Earlier today, the Cubs announced they have reassigned Bryant to minor league camp, and the White Sox all but confirmed that Rodon will start the league at AAA Charlotte. This was, of course, met with a windfall of reaction throughout baseball twitter, with hot takes flaring on both sides.
Unless you've been living under a rock (or, for your health, avoid stressful arguments about sports- props to you if this is the case), you're probably aware of the issues surrounding Bryant's demotion. The near-consensus top prospect in baseball coming off a monstrous full season in the minors, Bryant has demoted to AAA despite having absolutely nothing left to prove with the stick in the minors. If you believe the Cubs, this is to work on defense, if you have any critical thinking skills, you realize this is to manipulate his service time- despite being worthy of a big league promotion on skills and production, Bryant will be held down to keep him under team control through 2022.
On the surface, of course, there are many similarities between this and Rodon's current position. Rodon, like Bryant, is likely a (pretty significant) upgrade over the incumbents at the backend of the White Sox rotation. Rodon has performed up to expectations in spring, and the White Sox would also stand to gain a year of control by keeping Rodon in the minors for more than 12 days. Beyond that, however, there are a multitude of stark differences illustrated below that makes these comparisons faulty:
This is probably the most superficial disparity in factors surrounding these decisions, however, it still has a good amount of import. While Bryant has over 700 professional plate appearances under his belt, Rodon has 24.1 IP above the college level. This doesn't necessarily change how they project for 2014 (Rodon could not possibly have had much more experience as a 2014 draftee), it certainly changes arguments surrounding the players. Bryant has more than proven himself in the minors while Rodon has not done anything close to that. This difference certainly affects how mutual agent Scott Boras is approaching this discussion.
Major League Readiness
With an abstract definition of "ready", I think that both Bryant and Rodon are ready to contribute as soon as needed for their respective teams. Rodon, though, has a part of his skillset that legitimately needs work- the changeup. While his fastball and slider/cutter/slutter combination may be able to get hitters out at the highest level, his lack fo refined change up would limit his ultimate upside, and trying to refine it at the highest level could be detrimental both to the 2015 White Sox and Rodon's career.
Bryant, on the other hand, does not have nearly a significant aspect of his game that needs work, even if his defense needs work. Bryant has been seen as still a solid defensive third baseman, and even if it could improve, working on it at the MLB level would presumably be significantly less likely to stunt his growth than attempting to refine a thrid pitch (I admit, this is a bit of conjecture on my part, but I think there's a major difference here).
Kris Bryant will presumably be replacing Mike Olt at third base. Mike Olt is really, really bad. As in, 8th-worst-strikeout-rate-of-the-modern-era bad. Aside from two year old scouting reports, there is little to suggest he's worthy of a major league job, and the Cubs will presumably show their agreement with this when they replace him with Bryant early in the year.
John Danks and Hector Noesi, on the other hand, while bad, aren't that bad- both are somewhere between replacement level and passable fifth starter. There's also an important quandary here that doesn't exist with the Cubs in deciding who of the two to bounce from the rotation. Given comments from Don Cooper (who certainly is one to be trusted on pitching) on Hector Noesi, there would seem to be legitimate possibility that Noesi will outperform Danks this season. But given Danks' history, for right or wrong, it seems unlikely the White Sox will ditch their once front-of-rotation arm without him getting the chance to prove himself at the major league level. Because of who the incumbents are, the promotion of Rodon is a lot less cut-and-dry in terms of replacement than Byrant's.
Service Time Manipulation.
As a Sox fan, I would like to think holding Rodon in the minors is not about service time. While I understand the business sense of it, I find the entire idea of it slimy.
For the sake of argument, however, let's say it is only about service time. With history as precedent, pitchers' service time can be manipulated vastly differently than position players. As Fox's Jon Morosi pointed out in a recent column, pitchers in Rodon's situation have been sent down at the All Star break under the guise of taking of advantage of remaining minor league options while at the same time gaining extra bullpen versatility (and of course reducing service time in the process). The same can not be done for Bryant, who would presumably be starting every day, making a demotion indefensible. That this difference exists completely changes how these teams would need to approach the start of the season from a service time perspective.
With all this said, this discussion will soon be a thing of the past, when Bryant is up by mid-April and Rodon not far behind him. This doesn't change the significance of the topic at hand. Manipulating service time is intentionally failing to put the best product on the field, with no benefits but saving money for owners. With Bryant, this is most definitely what the Cubs are doing. The same cannot be said conclusively about the White Sox and Carlos Rodon.