The Cubs need pitching and they hope they got it with their first three picks. After using a majority of their picks to take bats the last five years, the Cubs used their 27th pick to draft junior college star Brendon Little of State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota. Three picks later they grabbed LSU All-American Alex Lange and then ended the night with another first-team All-American in Loyola Marymount’s Cory Abbott, another right-hander.
"We were looking for impact with our first two selections, and not force the issue with the need for pitching. The way the names were falling on the board, we were excited to have our two guys still there," said Jason McLeod, Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development.
Little was considered one of the top JUCO arms in the nation, after transferring from North Carolina after his freshman year.
"Brendon Little is a physical left-handed pitcher who we feel is just tapping into his potential now, with a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s and what we believe to be one of the best curveballs in the Draft," McLeod said of the Cubs first overall pick.
The 20-year-old averaged 14.03 strikeouts per 9.0 innings in his sophomore season, striking out 133 in 85.1 innings while walking just 33 batters. He went 5-3 in 15 starts with a 2.53 ERA (24 ER/85.1 IP) and surrendered just 67 hits.
The six-foot, two-inch 215-pound Little had seven 10-strikeout games in 15 outings, including 15 strikeouts and no walks, March 29 vs. South Florida State College. That outing began a three-start stretch in which he struck out 35 and walked just two in 20.0 innings from March 29-April 10. He later struck out 13 and walked none, April 21 against Polk State College.
Little is a graduate of Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pa. and was drafted by the Giants in the 36th round in 2015 but did not sign. With close to 100 innings already under his belt, Little will be kept under a close pitch count and may make it to Eugene before the end of the summer.
Heading into the 2017 college season, Trey Lange was considered one of the top college arms. His stock dropped some as the season progressed but the right-hander from LSU has help lead his team to the College World Series.
"Alex Lange is a proven winner in the best conference in college baseball,” McLeod said of the Cubs’ second pick. “He's taken the ball every Friday night for a top caliber team and he is one of the best competitors in the country.”
Lange, 21, went 9-5 his junior season with a 2.92 ERA in 111 innings, making 17 starts with four complete games. the SEC’s strikeout leader with 134, he started Game One of LSU's Super Regional vs. Mississippi State this past weekend, striking out 10 batters while allowing three runs in 7.2 innings in the Tigers' 4-3 victory.
A native of Lee's Summit, Missouri, Lange has gone 29-9 with a 2.88 ERA in 51-career starts over three seasons at LSU. He ranks second in program history with 390 strikeouts, just 19 shy of the program record. He has earned numerous awards and recognitions in his three years with the Tigers, including the 2015 National Freshman Pitcher of the Year, 2016 First-Team All-American and 2017 Second-Team All-American.
Lange graduated from Lee's Summit West High School where he was named the 2014 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year and a Perfect Game All-American. Lange throws a fastball in the mid- to low-90s with a plus curveball and developing change-up. After throwing over 100 innings for LSU and counting, Lange may not see many innings with the Cubs this summer after he signs.
With their second round pick, the Cubs drafted Abbott with the 67th overall pick, making him the highest Loyola Marymount player drafted since 2000 when Billy Traber was taken in the first round by the Mets. LMU’s first-ever first-team All-American, Abbott didn’t do much his first two seasons in the West Coast Conference but after a summer at Cape Cod, put it all together this spring.
The 2017 West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year went 11-2 with a 1.74 ERA over 15 starts this year, guiding LMU to its first WCC Championship since 2000. The right-hander logged 98.1 innings and struck out 130 hitters while limiting the opposition to just 61 hits and a .173 average against. The highlight of Abbott's season came on March 25 when he tossed the first perfect game in LMU and West Coast Conference history, defeating BYU by a score of 2-0. The perfect game was one of two complete game shutouts thrown by Abbott this season.
Abbott's stellar season ranks amongst the best in LMU history, as he turned in the lowest opponent batting average (.173) and most strikeouts-per-nine innings (11.90), second-best ERA (1.74), second-most shutouts (2), fourth-most strikeouts (130), and seventh-most wins (11).
Abbott’s success can be attributed to his plus slider and fastball that sits in the low 90s. He also throws a curveball and a plus change-up. Abbott was ranked much lower than where he was picked so the Cubs may be saving money with this pick to sign a prep arm on Day 2. With close to 100 innings already under his belt, Abbott will be limited on his innings after he signs.
Chicago has eight more picks in Day 2 as they make the lat selection in each round as the draft continues with Rounds 3-10 on Tuesday and concludes on Wednesday with picks 11-40.