Death, taxes, and the Chicago Cubs drafting a college bat in the first round. That was pretty much how it has gone for Theo & Co. during their time in Chicago. But that saying is no more after day one of the draft on Monday.
The Cubs had 3 picks in the first two rounds of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft that aired on MLB Network and MLB.com, with the picks being 27th, 30th, and 67th overall. While there are still 38 more rounds to go on Tuesday and Wednesday, here I will take a look at the new talent in the Cubs farm system after Day One.
With their first pick of the draft, the Cubs selected left handed pitcher Brendon Little with the 27th overall pick. Little has had an interesting path to this point in his career already. He committed to the University of North Carolina out of high school and turned down a contract with the San Francisco Giants after they selected him in the 36th round of the 2015 draft. A very raw talent heading into his freshman season in Chapel Hill, Little pitched only 4 innings.
After a relatively disappointing first season at UNC, he moved on to the Cape Cod league which is widely considered to be the top amateur summer league in the country. After a successful stop in the Cape in 22 innings, Little decided to transfer to the State Junior College of Florida in order to enhance his draft stock and allow himself to declare for the draft after just his sophomore season. The decision was a wise one as the lefty had a very good season with a 2.53 ERA and a 133/33 strikeout to walk ratio in 85 innings.
With Brendon Little the Cubs are getting a guy who will begin his professional career as a starter. His repertoire includes a mid-90s fastball and what has graded out as a plus curveball. His stuff and command are both what will allow him to progress through the system as either a starter or reliever. If he can work out some kinks in his delivery, which at this point has some extreme inconsistencies, he can further improve his control and show the ability to stay in the rotation. If that does not work out, Little shows the potential to be a very good reliever because of his extremely impressive strikeout numbers.
With the 30th overall pick and the second pick of the night for the Cubs, they selected the righty pitcher out of LSU by the name of Alex Lange. Lange had been a name connected to the Cubs for several weeks leading up to the draft. A three year starter at one of the top programs in the nation, Lange won Freshman of the Year honors and consensus All-American honors during the 2015 campaign, going 13-0 with a 1.97 ERA. Since his freshman season, he came back down to earth a little throwing 111 innings with 134 strikeouts and a 2.92 ERA this season (his Junior year).
Much like Little, Lange grades out with a plus fastball and curve. Many scouts graded his curve as the best in the entire draft. His fastball sits 92-96 and he has shown the ability to work deep into games throughout the majority of his junior season at LSU. The Cubs get a guy with that winning mentality that everyone likes to have as he was the top starter on one of the top teams in the country, playing in the best conference in the nation.
Looking to follow in the footsteps of other recent LSU first round picks including Aaron Nola and Kevin Gausman, Lange will also start his career as a starter in the Cubs farm system. While a move to the bullpen down the road is not out of the question, I think that his skills play well for a run at the rotation for now. I would not be surprised if Alex sees very little action as a professional this season after already throwing more than 100 innings and his team currently making a deep run into the College World Series. He might get the Thomas Hatch treatment and be given an aggressive assignment come 2018.
The final pick of the night was made at 67th overall and it was another pitcher. Righty starter Cory Abbott out of Loyola Marymount University was the selection and he came a little bit off the radar. A junior for the Lions, Abbott holds the distinction of throwing the only perfect game in Loyola Marymount history. He won the WCC Pitcher of the Year award and was named to the All-American team according to Collegiate Baseball.
The 6’2” right hander sits 90-93 with his fastball and his go-to secondary pitch is a plus slider. Besides the fastball/slider combination that he typically works with, Abbott also has a curve and a changeup as options that are works in progress. In 98.1 innings this season, he pitched to a 1.74 ERA while striking out 130. Much like the other two pitchers drafted on Monday night, Abbott will start his professional career as a starter. I think he has the highest possibility of ending his career as a reliever though, with his high swing and miss rates as well as his impressive two pitch fastball/slider combo.
A successful day for the Cubs in the draft as they made it very clear they wanted to fill the void that is currently in the system. They need impact pitching prospects and they need them quickly. The best way to fill that hole is by drafting college starting pitchers.
Three picks down, only 38 more to go.