About a year ago, I sat down and watched new Cubs draft pick Thomas Hatch of Oklahoma State throw in the College World Series. Yesterday, I did the same with Alex Lange, the Cubs’ choice with the 30th selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. The 6’3” 197-pound right hander from Louisiana State University (LSU) faced off against Oregon State, the number one team in the nation. For LSU, it was win or go home.
Lange did not disappoint.
In 7.1 IP, Lange looked dominant at times, but also frustrated and even vulnerable at one point. He struck out eight and allowed one run, but walked four (three in one inning) while only giving up only two doubles on the day. He needed 115 pitches to get it done as his team captured a 3-1 victory. I came away extremely impressed with Lange’s effort.
Plus-plus curve (MLB ready)
Repeats delivery well
Hitters were 0-for-20 with the bases loaded against him
Areas of Concern
Effort in delivery
Pitching from the stretch
From a technical standpoint, Lange does have some effort in his delivery, which comes on his extension of his arm as it comes forward. He has a medium leg kick that brings his knee and thigh perpendicular to his waist and he comes right over the top at about a 7/8 arm slot. He did pitch fairly quickly and did not waste time in between pitches, just gets the ball, nods his head, and throws.
The Bayou Bengal ace sat at 91 most of the game, topping out at 93 a few times. On his 112th pitch, he reached back and got it up to 93 for his eighth K of the day.
For the first two innings, Lange looked extremely sharp. Using only 23 pitches, he moved the ball around the zone quite a bit. A pop-up here, a groundout there, a couple of K’s thrown in for good measure, and the 3rd inning awaited.
I think “rough” best describes Lange’s performance in that frame. He threw a changeup for the first time and it was not pretty. Otherwise, he looked normal as he was sitting 93 to begin the inning. After a strikeout to start the inning, he gave up a double and three walks. He was able to pitch around his walks, but he did so giving up one run.
The trouble really started after a double forced Lange to go to the stretch, which he did not look prepared to do. He fell behind the first hitter 2-0, throwing high and then wide. It was almost as if his release point had been thrown off. To me, he appeared to be flying open. His arm was not keeping up with the rest of his body in the delivery and the ball sailed. It took Lange 31 pitches to survive the inning.
He sat at 56 pitches after three innings. I don’t know who that pitcher was in the third, but he did not show up the rest of the day. The next four innings looked like it was a man against boys. Working from the windup, he shut down the vaunted top-seeded team in the nation.
Oregon State never did pull a ball for a hit all day. In fact, both hits they had were from lefty hitters and sliced down the left field line. If anybody did pull the ball, it was a groundout.
Two things impressed me a lot in Lange’s 4.1-inning finish:
1. He began to paint the outside corner with fastball after fastball with pinpoint command; if a hitter tried to go get it, they could not do much with it.
2. With that classic 12-6 roll-off-the-table look, Lange’s curveball reminded me of Josh Beckett’s. I don’t know how a hitter can get to it as the break is down and deep. All they could do is to pound it into the dirt.
And I was not the only one impressed on the day. Baseball America’s Michael Lananna echoed my sentiments on Lange’s performance.
Alex Lange is looking really locked out there right now. Putting the ball where he wants it, some life on his fastball, working quickly.
— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) June 23, 2017
After 7 innings, Lange had thrown 112 pitches. I was not surprised when he came back out in the 8th, but I was cringing the whole time. After he got the first batter to ground out and was lifted, I was quite relieved.
Even after he eventually signs, I don’t think Lange will pitch in the Cubs organization this year. He’s over 120 IP for LSU and he will probably follow Hatch’s footsteps, which is to say he’ll likely travel around with the team as a non-playing member to get acclimated to the MiLB lifestyle.
As for next year, I am sure the Cubs will make a few adjustments to Lange’s delivery and they could even include a slide step as he does have a bit of a leg kick even in the stretch. He won’t be much different, though, and that curve is just a think of beauty. I don’t think it will take him long to move up through the system and he’s likely to be a number three- or four-type starter very quickly.
The Cubs got a good one in Alex Lange.