Offseason Prospect Overview: Brendon Little

Brendon Little (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Brendon Little (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Season Review

brendonlittle

The Cubs top pick in 2017. Little has struggled to produce in his first year and a half as a pro despite flashing three average or better pitches. The talent that enticed the Cubs into making him their top pick in 2017 is evident but rarely does he maintain it beyond a couple of starts at a time. Inconsistent stuff, mechanics, control, and injuries have all contributed to his uneven performance.

Little was very hit-or-miss, with 9 games allowing 4+ earned runs and then 8 games allowing 0 or 1 runs. From late April through the end of July, Little essentially alternated good and bad performances, before tiring a bit down the stretch. He was often susceptible to one bad inning, but was also the victim of some bad luck. There is a reason his FIP and xFIP are significantly lower than his unseemly ERA.

It is important to keep in mind that Little had very little collegiate experience. He had thrown less than 90 innings the previous two years, mostly at the JUCO level, along with a little extra time on the Cape. No one in the Cubs organization expected him to be a finished project.

Positives

Mechanical concerns and consistency aside, the reason Little is so intriguing is his potential for an above average fastball-curveball combination. Even if he fails to develop his changeup into a viable 3rd pitch, Little has upside as a late inning reliever. He generates above average spin rates on both pitches. His control of them will waver but when he had a feel for both he tortured Midwest League hitters.

Negatives

Little and the Cubs were still tinkering with his delivery during the season, which undoubtedly contributed to his inconsistency. He rarely had command of all three of his pitches, and the overall consistency of his changeup wavered. All of this is why it remains an open question as to whether Little can remain a starter at higher levels, or if he will be forced to transition to a pen role.

Summation

Little has fallback potential as a reliever, but there is still starter upside here. It is all about developing consistency, throwing strikes and improving the changeup. This season isn't make or break, but Little can allay a lot of fears if he turns in a solid season in 2019 because as a prospect he is still all about projection rather than performance at this point, which makes him risky to fulfill his potential.

2019 Outlook

Little obviously cannot continue to alternate good and bad starts like he did for most of 2018. It was his first full season and Little was still making mechanical adjustments so I prefer to focus more on the highs than the lows. He was still learning. From this point on production will take on greater importance. He will get to perform in a pitcher's park in a pitcher's league with Myrtle Beach this season. He doesn't need to take a giant leap but you want to see more evidence he can perform consistently under a starter's workload.

Comments

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  • Cubs win 1st 8-4. Bryant HR on first at bat. Cubs 2-10 with RISP. Contreras 2Ks. Hayward 1b on grounder to RF-run scored. Mostly guys you never heard of playing but some old names. Descalso 1-2. With no TV for awhile you can go to MLB.com and there will be a column of all games on the L side. Click on Cubs and then on checkerboard next to it. Get box score and can the get each inning, batter by batter for both teams. Pretty neat actually and surely next best thing.

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    In reply to veteran:

    My favorite part was when KB told all the media critics "Bring It".

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    He sounds salty. I love it!

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    I posted this on twitter but it bears repeating here:
    I'm not sure anyone with a sound mind doubts Kris Bryant, but if he feels like playing the "nobody believes in me" angle as motivation for this year I can get behind it.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Well, if I’m being fully honest, I think Bryant is wildly overrated. Baez is going to regress significantly. Darvish and Morrow were failed signings. Happ is going to strike out 400 times. Rizzo and Lester and Hamels are old. Petoca is off the mark; I’m thinking 75.wins. Time to think rebuild.

  • In reply to Cubs09:

    I take it as you are saying this in jest.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Just doing my part to help. Hee, hee.

  • I figured they were trying to tweak him. I know fans are more results oriented or driven. But we have to remember he & Lange were drafted in 2017. Maybe this year is when they let them be themselves with their new mechanical changes. Hopefully they show why they were 1st rounders.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    The problem is you don’t draft guys in the 1st round who need overhauls like Little. The other issue is the guy is very non-athletic. He is stiff in his hips, legs, and arm — looks like he “muscles” the ball. I wonder if he was drafted with the direction McLoed has now stated is a failed philosophy.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I have the same athleticism concerns you do regarding Little and I know we've discussed it before. They make me wary of him ever reaching his full potential, especially as a starting pitcher.

    For better or worse, Little reminds me a bit of Justin Wilson. And I believe his most likely MLB role ends up similar to Wilson. Which would be both a success and a disappointment, if that makes any sense.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I would gladly take him as a Wilson. I think that is a good outcome. Not sure he possesses the loose arm which generates the max velocity. But a Wilson career would be excellent at this point.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    He hit 96 as a reliever on the Cape. And he hit some 94-95 at times as a starter this year, even if he was mostly 90-92. I could see him in the 93-96 range as a dedicated reliever. So a little below the 94-97 of Wilson, but Little's curve has more promise than Wilson's slider.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I actually liked the Lange pick more than the Little pick at the time. They must have thought Little wasn’t going to fall to them in the 2nd rd. I also thought they seemed to be looking at the curveballers early in that draft. I’m still holding out hope that Lange will be a quality #4 minimum or 3 starter eventually.

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