Earlier this week, the Chicago Cubs took two college pitchers – just three picks apart – in the first round of the MLB Draft.
We’ve already discussed the first first-round pick, Brendon Little, at length earlier today. So now, let’s turn our attention to the Cubs’ second first-round pick, Alex Lange.
- If you want any indication on how well-thought of Lange is in the eyes of Cubs SVP of Scouting and Player Developmet Jason McLeod, know that he never thought Lange would still be available by the time the Cubs picked at No. 30. Indeed, according to McLeod, Lange is one of the best performers in the best conference (the SEC) in the country.
- As a freshman, Lange went 12-0 with a 1.97 ERA, earning SEC Freshman of the Year, National Freshman Pitcher of the Year, and First-Team All-American honors. This season – his third at LSU – Lange led the SEC in strikeouts, earned an ERA below 3.00, and will be pitching in the upcoming College World Series (starting on Saturday). Clearly, he’s figured out how to pitch and pitch well at the collegiate level (though he did just throw 125 pitches in game this May, which, ugh). McLeod suggested that there may be some mechanical stuff to work through, not unlike Brendon Little, but overall he “love[s] everything about the guy.”
- Also like Little, Lange works primarily with a fastball (low to mid 90s) and a curveball, while working on his changeup as a third pitch as well. Both of the former two pitches earned a plus grade from scouts at MLB.com, although his changeup has been slightly more erratic (we’ll get back to this in a bit).
- It’s his curveball, instead, that I’d like to linger on first, because it draws – by far – the most praise. According to Keith Law, Lange’s curveball was one of the top two curveballs in the draft (the other belonging to Little). And LSU manager Paul Mainieri agrees, claiming that Lange’s curveball is the best in the country. Given the recent curveball revolution, this may not have been just a happy accident. Let’s see if the Cubs can make something of these hammers.
- Back to the changeup: At Minor League Ball, John Sickels has a draft profile on Lange, wherein he suggests that Lange’s changeup has been a plus pitch in the past, even though it has faded in recent years. The potential, however, is still very much there for Lange to command three plus pitches as a starter in the top half of a rotation – which, drool. Like Little, then, it seems the development of a third pitch beyond his fastball and curveballs will decide Lange’s future role.
- And finally, as far as weaknesses go, Sickels finds that Lange can rush his delivery at times which directly harms his ability to command his secondary pitches. But to be sure, that was apparently more of a concern last season than it was for him this year. Staying healthy, Sickels writes, will be his biggest obstacle in the end.
- A few videos of Lange, including an interview:
In terms of two pitchers with a solid floor, but plenty of upside, it’s hard to see the Cubs doing much better than Little and Lange. At worst, it seems they’ve drafted two dominant late-inning relievers with great fastballs and even better curveballs. If, however, either one is able to develop their changeup into something they can throw with consistency, the top half of the rotation is well within their grasp. And that’s not something the Cubs have much of.