While the Cubs pen had its woes last season, it was one of the stronger stables in the National League. Like every other bullpen, the relief group in Chicago did experience its fair share of injuries during the 162-game campaign. Along with injuries came a lack of depth in a certain area of the pen as the season went along.
There never was a real left-handed presence in the stable in 2023. Anthony Kay was with the club for several stints but never panned out. There have been rumblings that the Cubs want to add a veteran arm to the bullpen in 2024. If that doesn’t pan out, what do they have in-house right now?
Luke Little made his major league debut on September 6 and had some success in just a handful of appearances. The organization has high hopes for the southpaw. Even though they want to add more left-handed depth to the pen, they know Little can perform at the major league level.
Little’s arsenal is as straightforward as it gets. He can run it up to triple digits with his heavy heater and has a competitive wipeout slider to compliment it. While it’s good to have a nice “out pitch” to go with a heater, many believe that Little will need to develop a third option if he wants sustained success at the next level.
He has been working on a changeup since he was drafted to the Cubs organization out of San Jacinto College in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. This changeup possesses splitter-like movement, but Little has made it known that he is still not completely confident in the pitch.
Little went viral before the draft for throwing a 105-mile-per-hour fastball in a workout. His velocity has decreased to gain better control of his stuff. His topping triple digits are significant if he’s looking to crack the pen consistently in 2024.
In just seven appearances with the big club in 2023, Little recorded 6.2 innings on the hill. He struck out 12 and walked four while not allowing an earned run. His 1.35 WHIP wasn’t the best, but not allowing a run was the biggest highlight. Little having a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is extremely promising as well.
Across three minor league levels before being called up, Little went 5-2 with a 2.12 ERA in 63.2 innings tossed last season. The Charlotte, NC native had a 1.28 WHIP and struck out 14.8 batters per nine in the breakthrough season.
Another major statistic from Little’s 2023 season, is that he held batters under a .200 batting average in those near 65 innings thrown in the minors.
Undoubtedly, the stuff is there for the Cubs’ young left-hander. Despite his short cup of coffee in the show, he turned heads with his results. No matter if the Cubs add another left-handed relief arm to the pen before (or during) Spring Training, Little will see opportunities thrown his way to make the team for Opening Day.
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