Command was the question mark.
So Brendon Little fixed it.
Not having a third pitch, which in turn could allow more seasoned hitters to jump on a predictable pitching pattern, was a concern.
So Little addressed it.
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He just gave me the tools.
Brendon Little on SCF pitching coach Don Robinson teaching him a change-up
Now the left-handed State College of Florida pitcher is on the verge of getting selected in the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which begins Monday.
Little is a projected first-round pick, and he recently worked out for the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays. The Chicago Cubs were scheduled to watch him throw on Friday.
“These are the last things that I guess I can control, is trying to put a good image into the organizations’ minds coming into the draft,” Little said. “Other than that, try to let it take its course and, hopefully, it all works out.
Every MLB team sent scouts through Bradenton and road venues to see Little pitch this season.
“He’s got a really good arm,” SCF head baseball coach Tim Hill II said. “He’s got some arm strength that you can’t teach. So he’s got the plus-fastball, where he’s been anywhere from 92 to 96 (miles per hour) from the left side. Left-handed pitching is hard to find. There’s not many of them around, let alone that can throw it like that. ... He complements that with a very good breaking ball. He can really spin the breaking ball.”
Little arrived at SCF after pitching last summer in the Cape Cod League. He said that gave him confidence he could pitch against the top amateur and collegiate players.
When he arrived in Bradenton, though, there were questions concerning his control and he only featured two pitches: a fastball and curveball.
While both pitches rated in the plus category, Little needed a third to offset any predictability against better hitters.
So SCF pitching coach Don Robinson, who was a member of the World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979, taught Little how to throw a change-up, specifically getting a loose grip.
“He just gave me the tools,” Little said. “Now I just need the in-game experience of throwing it, but he was just awesome with really simplifying everything from the mechanical to the grip, so he was an invaluable part to my success.”
The results were sparkling in 2017: Little struck out 133 batters in 15 starts, registering seven double-digit strikeout games with a season-best 16 in eight innings against South Florida State College on March 1.
85.1 Innings Brendon Little pitched this season.
But long before Little produced a 2.53 ERA as a sophomore transfer from the University of North Carolina, he grew up just outside Philadelphia as a Phillies fan. Little said it would be cool to play for his hometown team. But, ultimately, Little said he’s just ready to take the step into professional baseball no matter who drafts him.
Helping him through the process is the family-aspect of the SCF baseball program, which allowed Little to use the facilities to throw for the Astros and Rays, and his adviser, Andrew Lowenthal.
Little first met Lowenthal during the summer leading into his senior year of high school at a travel ball tournament. After contemplating it, Little decided Lowenthal was the right fit and the latter became Little’s adviser with the intention of signing with him — and his agency, Jet Sports Management — after he’s drafted and if he chooses to sign with that franchise.
“It eventually will come down to the dollar figure,” said Little about whether he’ll sign or continue his college career at Liberty University. “That’s something I haven’t even really put a number on yet, but it’s something that I’ll just continue talking with Andrew ... trying to figure where I could possibly go and try to go from there.”
2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft
What: 40 rounds, plus supplemental rounds
Where: Secaucus, N.J.
When: June 12, 7 p.m. (rounds 1-2, supplemental); June 13, 1 p.m. (rounds 3-10); June 14, noon (rounds 11-40)
TV: MLB Network (Monday, First round plus supplemental round A).
Online: Mlb.com (all rounds).
Rays picks: Fourth overall; 31st (supplemental round A); 40th (second round); 79th (third round). Team will pick fourth in rounds 4-40.