Offseason Prospect Profile: Alex Lange’s Future May Depend on Third Pitch

The Cubs selected right-handed pitcher Alex Lange from Louisiana State University with the 30th pick in the 2017 MLB draft. The number one starter for the Tigers, Lange came to the Cubs armed with what was considered the best curveball in the draft. Because he’d already pitched 130 innings during his final college season, he was limited to just nine innings of professional action.

As such, there are still a lot of questions about Lange heading into 2018: Exactly who is he as a pitcher? What he will be working on? Where he will be doing it? How fast he can get to the next level?

After watching him pitch last year at LSU, and once on MiLB TV, I fell in love with his curve. That being said, he is not a fully formed prospect and still needs to work on developing a third pitch that he can throw consistently for strikes. He also has to put to rest any health issues, as the Cubs discovered something in his physical that resulted in a lower signing bonus. Still, it’s hard to deny the potential that made him a first-round pick.

Basic Info
6-3,197 lbs.
Throws: right
22 years old
1st Round 2017 Draft

Leveling Up

Jaron Madison, the Cubs’ director of player development, wasted no time answering my question about where the Cubs were planning to start Lange in 2018, confirming that he’d be at South Bend. I wonder if the experiences and struggles of Thomas Hatch at Myrtle Beach last year had anything to do with Madison’s quick response. Part of me thinks it did, while another part of me thinks that Lange has some things he needs to work on before he goes up to high-A ball.

Here’s a bit more on that from FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen, who writes that Lange showed some promise when it comes to making the necessary changes.

[…] evaluators had some concerns about Lange’s ability to pitch in a big-league rotation, requiring better fastball command and a yet-to-develop third pitch to project him as a starter. Lange used his curveball as a crutch at LSU and never developed feel for his changeup, though a source who saw him in the Northwest League, where Lange used his change more often, thought it had promising movement.

In addition to the curve, I really love Lange’s competitive nature on the mound. He is into the game on every pitch. However, that intensity carries over into a violent delivery the Cubs should try and smooth out a bit. 

Another question that I have about Lange going forward is just exactly what his role is going to be. I’m pretty sure the Cubs are going to have him start at South Bend, since that is the best way for him to develop a third pitch while improving his fastball command. On the other hand, Lange could easily be a power reliever and his stuff might tick up a bit coming out of the pen two or three times a week. I shudder to think of a minor-league hitter trying to get any solid contact against that bender. It could get ugly.

As with any young pitcher, Lange’s future is nowhere near set in stone and I tend to think of his duality as a win-win for the Cubs. It would be nice if he could advance through two levels this year, but there’s no rush to get him to the majors as a fast-track prospect. And while there’s a lot to like about this young man, I think expectations might need to be tempered until his changeup gets to where it needs to be.

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