Spring Training Prospect Notes: Little and Lange

Minor League camp opened this past weekend. Not much word has leaked out at this point, and unfortunately a recent illness and time away from work has forced me to cancel my travel plans to Arizona this spring so I won't be able to provide the first hand reports that I hoped, but there are a few tidbits I would like to cover.

Alex Lange (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Alex Lange (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

The Cubs pair of first round picks from last season Brendon Little and Alex Lange kicked off their spring in a shared bullpen session on Tuesday. Stephanie was on hand (as evidenced by the wonderful new pictures) and reports the session grew quite a gathering. Also included in the five man group were ground specialist Bryan Hudson, changeup specialist Jesus Camargo, and 2017 11th round pick Rollie Lacy.

The hammer curve featured by Lange drew very high praise from AZ Phil who labeled it a plus-plus pitch. This is in line with my own assessment from last fall. It is a true out pitch and I have no doubt would be effective against MLB hitters right now. The question becomes, do the Cubs allow Lange to develop a third pitch, which will greatly increase his odds of remaining a starter, or do they attempt to fast track him at some point in the near future and see how well his fastball/curve combo plays out of the pen?

Alex Lange (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Alex Lange (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

There is a good chance that if given the opportunity Lange could potentially contribute out of the Major League pen as early as next season. I'm all for keeping him in the rotations at South Bend and Myrtle Beach this season to give him a chance to work on his changeup and also get the maximum amount of experience possible against professional competition. However, if he does not show tangible improvement with the pitch, or develop any other third offering, then I would strongly consider converting him to a reliever heading into next spring with an eye toward him helping out down the stretch in Chicago.

As for Little, it was also encouraging to hear AZ Phil come away with a similar impression, in particular with regards to Little's changeup. Throughout the draft process all I heard on Little was mid-90s fastball and a big curve. Never did I read a scouting report that included the potential for a plus changeup. Then, low-and-behold when Little reported to Eugene last August I was pleasantly surprised to see the lefty prominently featuring an average change that flashed as potentially even better.

Brendon Little (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Brendon Little (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Yes, his velocity was down (88-90) at the end of the year, but their was still a nice split between his fastball and change of roughly 8 or 9 MPH. If he can get his velocity back up into even the low-90s consistently in combination with his plus curve and potentially plus change it is very easy to understand why the Cubs were so intrigued. He has a starter's repertoire. What he needs to develop is control of it all. Little walked 9 over his first 16.1 IP with the Emeralds and according to AZ Phil struggled with his fastball command throughout the bullpen session on Tuesday. Unlike Lange, I see no reason to rush Little. The organization can provide him with multiple seasons in the minors in order to iron out the kinks if necessary because the potential rewards, a MOR starter, are worth the investment.

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  • Cubs win today. Schwarber and Bote each with absolute bombs for 2-run homers. Bote also contributed an RBI single. De La Cruz finished off the 6-1 victory with a 1-2-3 ninth.

    The team also re-assigned 40 man roster players Alzolay, Underwood and De La Cruz as well as NRIs Baldonado, Brooks, Camarena, Garner, Hatch, Roth, Burks, Rademacher, Rice, Vosler to Minor League camp.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    It sounds like both JHey and Almora doubled. Man, this is not my father's Cubs team!

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I thought Schwarber transformed into Larry Bowa this off season and will be picking daisies in iowa by May? :-D

    He looks really good. Bat speed is there. I am really excited for him in ‘18.

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    Thanks for the update Michael. Very SSS, but De La Cruz could be very effective this year.
    Very informative article about the 2 pichers a lot of us have interest in. How does Little go from the mid-90's to 88-90? Was the former not accurate or just wishful thinking? Again, I'd rather have plus curves and change ups and movement than just pure speed--look at Michael Kopech's game the other day.
    We could be seeing the beginning of the pitching wave that we've been waiting for.
    Thanks again.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Always tough to judge with guys after the draft. They've already finished their collegiate schedule and are being asked to ramp it back up after a layoff. Amateurs are also only pitching once a week and so sometimes guys need time to adjust to every five days. The team could also be working with them on a mechanical adjustment.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Me too. I was really surprised to read that. If he's at 88-90 this year, its going to be a real concern. I am not saying he has to be at 96-98, but for where we drafted and what we expected, I would like to heat he's consistently sitting in the 92-94 range.

    Plus if he's in the high 80s w the fastball, its going to be harder to make it in the pen if starting doesn't work out.

    In regards to Lange, thank god we won't need any reinforcements from the minors to supplement our pen down the stretch. I feel Maples and Underwood could be those guys if necessary. ( Maybe even Adolzay). I am just very happy that it looks like the floor for Lange is a very solid set up man or even a lights out closer! Obviously we need to keep our fingers crossed that he makes it thru the summer as a starter and develops that 3rd offering and maybe even a 4th ! Then next year w a little luck and some polish, he may be able to make the jump from MOR ceiling to perhaps TOR ceiling.

    The next 2 summers are going to be very interesting for all of our arms at all 3 levels ! Its kind of cool because the last 3+ summers, we been focusing on how our blue chip hitters have been progressing up the ladder w very little thought ( due mainly to lack of talent not preference) to our pitchers, but now the hitters are in the show and our minor league levels are filled w very interesting pitchers.

    Thanks to all those who write and contribute to this site, we are all going to be "experts" on all facets of our Minor leaguers !

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I’ve been critical of Little from the get go. I wanted Nate Pearson in a huge way. I think we whiffed on that one. If he isn’t a lefty than can sit in the 90’s then that is a major disappointment. I doubt he has a Hendricks change up and guys like a Jamie Moyer don’t really exist any longer.

    If Lange cannot make it as a starter, that would be a huge disappointment. His repertoire is similar to Grimm and he is nothing more than a middling reliever. You could argue that Grimm even has a better fastball than Lange. I’m a believer in Lange and am bullish he is a legit SP.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I agree on Lange as a starter over relieving. I was a big fan of that pick. Time will tell, it’s only their 1st spring training as pros. Let’s see how they progress.

  • I'd be very surprised if anyone in the Cubs FO is seriously thinking of Lange as a relief pitcher right now. Sure, pitching out of the pen if/when he first reaches the majors ala Zambrano did, but not in the minors. They will be grooming him as a starter. They didn't draft the pitcher with the best curve ball to make him a relief pitcher.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Definitely not this year. But if he doesn't develop a usable third pitch they'll have to consider it at some point, maybe as early as next spring. Lange could move fast if moved to pen and the Cubs will need impact relievers in a couple of years.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    So are you saying, "If starting doesn't work out he could always go to the 'pen and possibly be dominant there"?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes.
    At worst he could be sort of like Grimm, who features a similar plus curve. But I think Lange has better command of both the curve and fastball (in my limited viewings), so I think he could end up being how we all hoped Grimm could turn out.

  • I've been at the Cactus League this week. Happ, Schwarber, Quintana, and young pitcher De La Cruz have impressed. Where is Contreras?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    He’s gotta fever....

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    For mo cowbell!

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Ha ha! Love that skit.

  • Nice update.

  • Is Bote developing into a legit prospect? He’s moving up the minors and his results are improving. He’s also having a nice spring.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    Absolutely. Both will play in the majors. I'll have more on him in the next update

  • Some good news: after reports that De La Cruz was in the 88-92 MPH range earlier in the week, AZ Phil reported he sat 92-93 (T95) in his latest outing. De La Cruz typically sat 91-95, topping out at 96-97 before his pec injury last year so it appears he is ramping it back up a bit as spring moves along.

    Which also reinforces the notion to not get too concerned regarding radar readings in spring training, especially when looking at one isolated outing. Different pitchers take differing amounts of time to get ready, and tired arms do pop up for stretches, even when no injuries are present. These guys are not in rhythm or midseason form yet.

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