With their first pick in the 2017 Amateur Draft (No. 27 overall), the Chicago Cubs selected left-handed pitcher Brendon Little of the State College of Florida.
That means – assuming they’re able to sign him – the Cubs have a new top prospect (and a pitcher, no less!) in their system … and we know very little about him.
So let’s get to know him, shall we?
- According to Scott Chasen (MLB.com), the Cubs have kept an eye on Little for a while now, but he really got their attention last summer in the Cape Cod League. Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ SVP of Scouting and Player Development, implied that Little’s performance last summer was one of the biggest surprises of the year and really helped get his name on their map. Of course, his dominating run didn’t end last summer. Earlier this spring, Little posted a 2.53 ERA in 85.1 innings pitched, striking out 133 (second most in the country) while walking just 33, and allowing only 67 hits. That performance ultimately helped propel his name to the back-end of many first-round mocks, right where the Cubs eventually took him.
- The journey wasn’t a direct path to greatness for Little. In fact, before last summer’s resurgence, Little watched as his draft stock plummeted right alongside his command when he first enrolled at UNC. “Little, the top-rated player in North Carolina’s 16th-ranked recruiting class, couldn’t throw strikes,” Joey Johnston said at Baseball America. “His confidence wavered. He worked four total innings out of the bullpen and didn’t travel on most road trips.” In Little’s own words, “It was a bumpy, bumpy road.” Interestingly, Little has a really specific (and entirely compelling) reason for his struggles. Heading into his senior season at Conestoga High, Little tried to incorporate each of the following mechanical adjustments at the same time:
- Shifting to the other side of the rubber
- Lengthening his stride
- Increasing fastball velocity
- The result, unfortunately, was a quick and concerning loss of command that followed him until he left UNC entirely. After back-to-back positive performances last summer and this spring, however, his stock rebounded. You can read more about Little’s story/journey at BA.
- You can also hear him talk about his overall mentality here:
- At Minor League Ball, John Sickels has a full draft profile on Little that you’re definitely going to want to check out. Before providing a positive overall projection, Sickels covers the basics, strengths, and weaknesses of Brendon Little. I don’t want to spoil this one, because Sickels does such a nice, succinct job of covering the Cubs’ newest top prospect, but I will point out that his makeup is apparently a huge positive. Given how much we know the Cubs consider makeup, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise when it comes to the Cubs taking a pitcher with their first pick.
- It also shouldn’t go without saying that the experience of immense struggles, notable adjustments, and a convincing resurgence is an enormously positive sign for his upcoming journey through the Minors. Adjustments are the name of the game in baseball, and Little has shown the ability to recognize when they’re necessary and keep his wits about him through the worst of it. That’s really important.
- Little’s three primary pitches appear to have garnered a significant consensus from the scouting world. According to most of the reports I’ve read, Little’s fastball and curveball are clear plus pitches. He typically sits 92-95 with his fastball, but has reportedly touched 96-97 MPH on multiple occasions. And his curveball is supposed to be a pretty devastating 12-6 type that already earns 60 grades on the scouting scale. His changeup, on the other hand, is thought to be well behind the rest. And if it doesn’t ever develop into something that’s worth throwing with any consistency, his future role may be limited to the bullpen (albeit in a high leverage, late-inning capacity). His durability is also considered “unproven,” but those concerns are slightly more speculative at this point than anything else.
- Before the draft, Jim Callis ranked Brendon Little as one of the 10 best prospects in the Cape Cod League. According to Callis, Little could develop into a front-line starter or a high-leverage reliever (again that distinction seems to depend mostly on the evolution of his changeup).
- And if you’re ready for a final bit of optimism, check out this quote from Cotuit manager Mike Roberts: “The best arm in the league was Little …. When he threw against us, I thought he was Randy Johnson. He flat lit it up against us.” Now that’s a report I can get behind, especially when it comes from an opposing manager.
- Some video of Little in action: