I got a chance to see Cubs 1st round pick (27th overall) Brendan Little pitch in his first Northwest League start tonight against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. Little is a left handed pitcher that was highly touted out of State Junior College of Florida. While most scouting reports regard Little as having a plus fastball that ranges from 93-95 mph, he struggled to find that same velocity on Tuesday evening. Sitting next to the Trackman operator, I watched the radar gun as it clocked Little consistently at 91 mph, touching 93 mph once.
Little struggled with his command all night, falling behind 2-0 or 3-1 on 8 of the 13 batters he faced. He also only threw three first pitch strikes. Little could not consistently repeat his delivery tonight as his arm angle dropped the longer innings wore on.
Little begins his delivery closed off as his right hip is moved well in front of his right hip when he begins his motion. Due to this pre-pitch setup, he often times throws across his body, which hampers his ability to command the zone.
Due to his inability to get ahead in the count, Little only threw three curveballs out of the 35 pitches he threw. Out of the three curveballs he threw, he got swings and misses on two of them, as the pitch flashed the 60 grade that many scouts have assigned to it.
Little’s changeup trails far behind his other two offerings and the lack of confidence in the pitch was on display tonight as he did throw the pitch.
At its best, Little’s fastball showed great life, but he often times put himself in counts where he was simply trying to get it over.
He also did not hold runners well tonight, as Bryce Johnson of Salem-Keizer stole 2nd and 3rd on consecutive pitches against him. On the first steal, Johnson took a huge one-way lead and took off on first movement. When Little tried to pick off Johnson at second, he sailed his pickoff throw into centerfield, but Johnson couldn’t advance to third as the centerfielder was playing in. Little then seemingly lost his confidence throwing to bases after the errant throw. On the next pitch, Johnson got a huge lead and stole third base standing up.
Overall, Little shows the lack of polish that is expected out of a 20-year old that only has one start in the Arizona Fall League, but he looked very raw in a small sample tonight. Unfortunately, Little’s velocity was down as well tonight, but after all, it is only one start.