Cubs Getting a Little Help for Bullpen, Literally

The Cubs are finally getting a lefty arm in the bullpen with the promotion of Luke Little, a towering reliever whose social media infamy — he hit 105 mph during a recorded bullpen — spurred the Cubs to select him in the fourth round of the truncated 2020 draft. Little posted to his Instagram story Wednesday morning that he was in the Des Moines airport and Des Moine Register reporter Tommy Birch subsequently confirmed the promotion.

A promotion has long been suspected for the 6-foot-8 southpaw, who was bumped to Triple-A Iowa just over a month ago and continued to put up huge strikeout numbers. The smoke got a little thicker when he pitched on back-to-back days for the first time, then folks started to see flames when he hadn’t pitched since August 31.

Little actually began his professional career as a starter, a role he maintained through four April starts for South Bend, but things really took off for him once he was moved to the bullpen. We saw something similar with Daniel Palencia, who was briefly placed on the development list to transition to a relief role and was promoted to Iowa immediately thereafter.

The Cubs are likewise planning to have Ben Brown work as a reliever once he’s back from injury, a move that signals his potential promotion later in the month.

Little has put up monster strikeout numbers this season, logging 105 Ks over 63.2 innings (14.84 K/9) across three levels of the system. He had 21 strikeouts in just under 12 innings with Iowa, so facing more experienced hitters didn’t slow him down a bit. Contol isn’t his strong suit and he’s going to walk his share of batters — 42 this year — but he’s only allowed one homer and the whiffs mitigate most of his mistakes.

With a fastball that reaches triple digits and that big downward tilt, Little bears down on hitters and makes his stuff seem even harder than it already is. He’s also got a slider that gets a ton of whiffs and harnessing his changeup would make him even more dangerous. Having a bullpen weapon like this will be good for the Cubs.

The question, however, is how the team will make room for him. There’s an opening on the 40-man roster, but someone will have to be removed from the active roster and my fear is that it’ll be Adbert Alzolay. The righty hasn’t pitched since September 1 after blowing saves in back-to-back appearances (there’s a lot of missing context here, just know this isn’t really a knock), though the Cubs haven’t needed a closer in their last three wins.

I really hope that’s not it and that there’s another way to clear a spot, but we’ll know soon enough. Regardless, I’m excited to see what Little can do.

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