Theo and Jed decided to bolster the Chicago Cubs organizational pitching depth on the first day of the 2017 MLB draft. The Cubs used their 2 first round picks, one of which was awarded to them for Dexter Fowler leaving via free agency, on pitchers. The Cubs selected pitchers Brendon Little and Alex Lange just 3 picks apart in round 1. They also used their 2nd round pick (67 overall) on RHP Cory Abbot out of Loyola Marymount. It seems the Cubs have put a high value on pitching in this draft, and for good reason.
With the 27th overall pick, the Cubs selected LHP Brendon Little out of JUCO State College of Florida. Little is a bit of a gamble for the Cubs because of his checkered pitching background. He was a top prospect in North Carolina’s 2015 recruiting class. Control issues hampered Little as a senior in High School and those struggles followed him to North Carolina where he only logged 4 innings of work. A strong campaign in the Cape Cod fall league prompted Little to transfer to State College of Florida where he was able to showcase his stuff for this year’s draft. He seems to have regained his control, which is promising considering he has plus stuff. As a lefty with a fastball that can touch 97 mph and a devastating curveball he has all the tools to be great pitcher, if his control can stay consistent. This pick is more of a boom or bust pick, which I am fine with considering their next pick is more of a “safe” option.
With the 30th pick the Cubs selected RHP Alex Lange out of LSU. Lange’s production and value have slipped since his first season at Louisiana State but he is still a very good prospect. In 2015 he started 17 games, posting a 12-0 record with a 1.97 ERA. He followed up his dominant Freshman campaign with a mediocre season in 2016. Lange had a 8-4 record with 3.79 ERA in 17 starts, which is obviously not as productive as he would like to be. This past season was a little more productive for Lange, posting a 9-5 record with a 2.92 ERA. Lange’s stuff is pretty good by all accounts, his fastball sits in the low 90’s and he has what many say is “the best college curveball in this draft.” If Lange can develop into a quality back-end of the rotation guy, I don’t think anybody would be upset.
This is the Cubs first draft under Theo where they have drafted in the back-end of the first round, if you don’t consider their two compensatory picks in 2012 where they selected pitchers Pierce Johnson(43) and Paul Blackburn(56). In 2016, they surrendered their 1st and 2nd round picks for signing Jason Heyward and John Lackey. The Cubs have had top-10 selections in each year from 2012 through 2015, selecting Albert Almora Jr.(6), Kris Bryant(2), Kyle Schwarber(4), and Ian Happ(9). Each of those players have contributed at the major league level already and figure to be at least above average pros, if they are not already. Theo and Jed’s plan seemed to be to bolster their positional depth in the early years and rely on Free Agent signings to sure up the rotation. This is partly because top-10 picks should be pretty close to a “sure thing” and positional players develop at a higher success rate than pitchers. This is one of the reasons the Cubs drafted Kris Bryant over Mark Appel in 2013, which seemed to work out in their favor. The other reason is what I believe to be Theo’s grand strategy. The Cubs have a ton of young, exciting and most importantly, cost-controlled position players at the time being. Most of these guys are arbitration eligible until 2021. Since they are still on their rookie deals, the Cubs have been able to splurge a bit in signing pitchers like Jon Lester and John Lackey via Free Agency. When it comes time to sign guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, they probably won’t have the capacity to continue signing FA pitching. The need for cheap pitching is going to be apparent in just a few short years, so replenishing the farm is not such a bad idea. The Cubs have never really had a top pitching prospect in their system since Theo has been at the helm. I’m not saying Little or Lange will be either, but they could very well develop into top prospects in the Cubs system. With only Dylan Cease, who is still a few years away, as being a high-caliber pitching prospect in the system, the Cubs needed to add a few arms which is exactly what they did. Either way, I will trust Theo no matter what. He could draft a guy with one arm and I wouldn’t dare question it.