By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The verdict was rendered a long before this year’s MLB amateur draft got started Monday evening.
The Cubs were going to select pitchers with picks Nos. 27 and 30 in the first round. That decision was made with the reality of a starting rotation that has some age in it as well as some impending free agents.
With that in mind, the Cubs selected State College of Florida left-hander Brendon Little at No. 27 and right-hander Alex Lange at No. 30 as they looked to fortify the organization’s pitching reservoir moving forward.
“I had said we were not going to force the issue,” senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod said. “We had our board lined up and felt really good about the players we felt would be there when we picked. Certainly, we are really excited getting Brendon and Alex. We are happy they were available for us.”
The Cubs have had great success in the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer-McLeod era in hitting on position player, as all five of their first-round picks from 2012 to 2016 are on their current 25-man roster. On the flip side, they haven’t drafted and developed a pitcher of their own that’s on their roster right now. They’ve hit on trades and ensuing development with youngsters like Kyle Hendricks, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm, and now they’re eyeing similar progress for the 20-year-old Little and 21-year-old Lange.
The Cubs going with college pitchers was a nod toward their need for pitchers at the big league level sooner rather than later and their belief that Little and Lange could be knocking on that door in a year or so. Both pitchers are equipped with mid-90s fastballs, and Lange is projected to have the best curveball of any pitcher in this draft.
“They are both different guys,” McLeod said. “Lange has been a high-profile pitcher at LSU the last three years. Brendon Little had a different journey. Both are top makeup guys and top-notch competitors. They have swing-and-miss stuff.”
McLeod confirmed that three of the four players the Cubs had identified as the talent they wanted were available when they made their first-round picks.
“We had an idea who was going to go in front of us,” he said. “Certainly you are going to spend a lot of time (scouting), in this case four or five guys we would be choosing from at 27 and 30. To have two of those four there after we spent so much time vetting them and doing background work, you really feel good about the process. It allows you to feel that much better when you make the pick.”
Lange is still pitching for LSU, which has advanced to the College World Series. Little recently finished his season at the junior college level.
Depending on how long it takes to sign them and get them rested, pitching a bit at rookie ball or Class-A is in play for Lange and Little later this summer.
“We will get them on track and into a throwing program the way we normally do,” McLeod said. “We will build in plans for them.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.