Coming out of the Pennsylvania high school ranks, left-handed pitcher Brendon Little was a well-regarded MLB First-Year Player Draft prospect in 2015. But a strong commitment to the University of North Carolina caused him to slide to the 36th round in the draft.
No one blamed Little for wanting to attend UNC, which historically is a strong program that prepares its players well for professional baseball.
However, attending UNC didn’t turn out like Little imagined. After throwing only four innings as a freshman in 2016, Little transferred to the State College of Florida, which allowed him to play right away this season.
“One of the bigger things I took away, whether it’s success or failure, is to just take it in stride,” Little said. “Don’t let anything get to your head too much.
“Out of high school I was a bigger recruit and went in there expecting to pitch a lot. I threw four innings and didn’t travel on a handful of the away trips. It really helped put things into perspective on how things can come and go so quickly.”
Transferring to a junior college makes Little eligible for June’s draft, even though he’s only a sophomore. MLB.com ranks Little as the 34th-best prospect in this year’s class.
Although he hardly pitched last season with the Tar Heels, Little impressed scouts last summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League, raising his draft stock significantly. In 27 innings in the Cape, Little tallied 39 strikeouts and earned a spot on the league’s all-star team.
“Just the confidence the coaches showed in me was huge,” Little said. “Going up there I had a lot to prove. My first outing wasn’t very good. But they just put me out there the next week and the week after that and by the middle to end of it, I was kind of the go-to guy to get out of a jam.”
In his senior season of high school in 2015, Little started having command issues, which was caused by mechanical adjustments he made prior to the start of his season, he said.
His command inconsistences carried over to the fall while at UNC. After researching solutions, he made mechanical adjustments before heading to the Cape.
“Going to Cape I switched back to the third base side of rubber where I feel more comfortable,” Little said. “I went back to just pitching and not focusing so much on my lower half mechanics. Just going out there and throwing.”
Little has carried his success from last summer over to this season. In three starts with SCF, he’s thrown 13 2/3 innings, registering a 1.98 ERA and 25 strikeouts while walking just six batters.
If Little continues to perform at a high level, he’ll have a shot at being a first-round pick come June’s draft. But right now, the draft is far from Little’s mind.
“The No. 1 goal for me is to minimize walks,” Little said. “Minimizing free passes. It’s just a killer. It’s not what starting pitchers are supposed to do. That’s just been the biggest focus for me.”
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