The Cubs are desperate for pitching in MLB Draft


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Alex Lange is a promising prospect (Bruce Thorson - USA Today Sports)
Alex Lange is a promising prospect (Bruce Thorson - USA Today Sports)

CHICAGO -- With the first round of the 2017 MLB draft taking place last night, the Cubs welcomed a pair of promising pitchers, Brendon Little and Alex Lange.

Both prospects are college pitchers who should offer depth to the farm system. Brendon Little was the Cubs first pick of the night, taken 27th overall with a pick acquired when Dexter Fowler left the team for the St. Louis Cardinals in free agency. Little is a hard throwing left-handed pitcher coming out of a JUCO in Florida as he posted an ERA of 2.53 in college with 133 strikeouts and 33 walks in 85 innings of work. His fastball regularly sits in the 92-95 range but tops out at an impressive 97 mph. Scouts also rave about Little’s curveball, often describing it as one of the better breaking pitches in the draft. Scouts seem to have mixed opinions on whether he will find more success as a started or reliever in the bigs. He has the power to be a force out of the bullpen, especially against left-handed hitters, but the Cubs would love to see him become a solid starter if he can develop his change-up and maybe add in some more variety to his different pitches.

The next player the Cubs selected in the first round (30th overall) was Alex Lange. Lange is a right-handed pitcher from LSU as he was an ace of one of the premier college baseball programs in the country and has shown to be a competitor and a winner in his time in college. In Lange’s college career he has gone 29-9 with a 2.89 ERA and 390 strikeouts which is second all-time in LSU’s storied baseball history. Lange’s most dominant year was his freshman season when he went a perfect 12-0 with 1.97 ERA and notched a win in the College World Series. Lange throws his fastball at 91-93 mph with a nasty curveball. Lange, like Little, is regarded as having one of the best breaking pitches of any pitcher in the draft. The question with Lange has come with his change-up, which has been very inconsistent. The change-up was one of his best pitches in his freshman season, but he lost a feel for it in his sophomore campaign. With already featuring a hard fastball and a good curveball, recovering the change-up could be a key for him to become a top of the rotation starter in the future.

The Cubs have shown the impact the draft can have by selecting most of their World Series winning players through the first round of the draft. Earlier this season, the Cubs became the only team in the MLB to start all of their last five first round picks: Javier Baez, 2011; Albert Almora Jr., 2012; Kris Bryant, 2013; Kyle Schwarber, 2014; and most recently Ian Happ, 2015. All of these players have already made positive impacts in Chicago and demonstrate the success Cubs President Theo Epstein has had in drafting players. The Cubs have used the draft as a blueprint to identify talent as well as strong character. By building from the draft, the Cubs have also been able to benefit from having young stars playing on their rookie contracts, allowing them to allocate more money into signing pieces such as Jon Lester and Jason Heyward to expensive long-term deals. Following the Cubs model, many other organizations have tried to build primarily through the draft lately, making last night fascinating.

Despite being hugely successful in drafting position players, Epstein’s struggles in his career have come from difficulties drafting and developing pitchers. Those struggles offer more anticipation to see the hopeful success of Brendon Little and Alex Lange. The Cubs decision to select two pitchers in the first round was preceded by last year's draft when 27 of the Cubs 38 selections were pitchers. The need to develop some young pitching is as prevalent as it’s ever been as the Cubs need to improve organizational depth. The Cubs took two pitchers at a time when their rotation in the majors has many unanswered questions. Veterans Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are both in the last year of their contracts, and Jon Lester is now 33 years old. Arrieta, Lackey, and Lester will all need to be replaced at some point, and the Cubs have taken in the early rounds of the draft to look for those replacements. As the uncertainty grows regarding the future of the Cubs starting rotation, having depth at all levels of the organization is key. The goal is for Brendon Little and Alex Lange to be two of the pitchers to fill rotation spots in the future.

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