With their first of two first-round picks, the Chicago Cubs opted for a largely unproven left-hander, Brendon Little, a hurler with a spotty track record.
Breaking a trend of taking position players with first-round picks, the Chicago Cubs turned their attention to pitching depth in Monday night’s MLB Draft.
Brendon Little, a former 36th-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2015, represents the Cubs’ first first-round pitching selection since Hayden Simpson in 2010. Since then, Chicago selected the likes of Javier Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. The team did not hold a first-round pick in last year’s draft.
The 6’2″ southpaw passed when selected by the Giants, instead opting to go to college. He pitched just four innings for the North Carolina Tar Heels – which is one of the reasons I have concerns about him out of the gates.
In the Cape Cod league, Little showed how effective he can be, nothing a 29-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22 innings. After transferring to the State Junior College of Florida ahead of the 2017 season, he put up impressive numbers again. In 85 innings pitched, his 133 strikeouts stood out against a mere 33 walks and 67 hits allowed.
Despite my own misgivings about him, it’s not like left-handers who hit 97 mph are just lying around. The kid has real talent and, whether he’s a starter or a reliever, his upside is clear.
Proven workhorse with 30th overall pick
With the pick gained when Dexter Fowler headed to St. Louis, Chicago again went for pitching, selecting right-hander Alex Lange out of LSU.
His fastball sits between 92-96 mph and has been the model of consistency for LSU. He’s known as a fierce competitor. Although his numbers weren’t as eye-popping as his freshman year, Lange represents another high-upside talent now in the Cubs’ farm system.
Minor League Ball broke down his performance early on in his LSU days in a post earlier this spring:
"He entered the starting rotation with LSU in 2015 and immediately emerged as an ace, going 12-0 in 17 starts with a 1.97 ERA and a 131/46 K/BB in 114 innings. He was more human as a sophomore, going 8-4, 3.79 in 17 starts with a 125/49 K/BB in 112 frames."
Lange mixes in a plus-breaking ball and, given his durability, may prove to be a future fixture in the Cubs’ rotation. Of course, only time will tell.
With the already-stacked roster and some decent position player talent still in the system, it makes a lot of sense for Chicago to go with pitching. Lange could be a horse at the big league level and if Little heads to the pen, things could get downright scary for opponents.