Chicago Cubs A+ Pitcher of the week: RHP Connor Noland (23 Years Old)
1 G, 5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2 H, 0 BB, 6 K
The Cubs drafted Connor Noland out of the University of Arkansas in the 9th round of last year’s draft and he’s been a solid contributor this year. He’s struck out more than a batter per inning and he’s been dominant in the month of May. In fact, if you remove the start at the end of April in which he gave up four runs over three innings against the Peoria Chiefs, he hasn’t given up more than a single run in any game he’s pitched.
Good teams have players like Connor Noland. Pitchers that act as depth can become middle relievers or back of the rotation arms. This doesn’t happen by accident. Occasionally you have to draft college pitchers without much projectability left in their frame and know that you’re not getting an ace that can anchor a staff, something the Cubs have been unwilling to do in years past, going instead for the bats or the prep pitchers. That being said, the Cubs liked him enough to give him an over-slot signing bonus despite the fact that he was a senior in college which gave him extremely limited leverage in negotiations.
One thing that I love about Noland is that he was a four-star recruit as a quarterback when he committed to Arkansas. Multi-sport athletes tend to have more of the leadership qualities you look for someone to have and are generally more athletic as a whole because they aren’t hyper-specified in their characteristics.
I loved the Noland pick at the time and he has done nothing but continue to impress and the best part is: it appears to be repeatable. Looking at his advanced metrics there isn’t anything that jumps out as lucky. He’s got a K/9 rate over nine, a BB/9 under two, a BABIP of .281, and a lower FIP at 2.45 than his ERA of 2.51. All of that combined with his ability to keep the ball on the ground against him at a 43.2% rate means that he’s limiting hard contact. If he keeps this up he could be a number four or five in a good rotation as soon as the end of 2024.