Connor Noland – Pic via University of Arkansas
When the announcement came that the Cubs drafted Connor Noland from Arkansas, I was pretty excited to see the Cubs get an arm from such a great program and a great conference. Noland moved from the Razorback bullpen to the Friday night starter this year when Payton Pallette was injured and Nolan filled in admirably while flashing a plus slider, which is probably the reason why the Cubs took him.
Height – 6-foot-2
Weight – 215
From – Greenwood, Arkansas
9th round pick 2022 Draft
The first thing that pops out at you about Noland‘s basic information is that he is 23 years old. This is going to be a thing for a couple of years still to come as the pandemic did rob several players of that one year of playing. This year‘s college group is just a little bit older than the normal group of draft picks. Most of the players stayed in school an extra year and Noland was no exception.
Noland actually showed up to Arkansas as a two-sport athlete. He was a quarterback who played for one year on the football team. But after his freshman year on the diamond he went strictly to baseball. Noland was in the starting rotation as a newbie for Arkansas. He started 19 games with a 4.02 ERA and struck out 55 in 78.1 innings. That’s pretty impressive considering the league he was in and the pressure put upon him in the SEC, a big-time program.
In 2020, He only got in three games before the pandemic hit and they were all in the bullpen. 2021 was not the season to write home about as his ERA ballooned up to almost seven.
After Pallette went on the shelf for the entire season, Noland stepped up to be the Friday night starter. What Noland did was nothing short of extraordinary in helping lead Arkansas all season long. He started 19 games and threw 116 innings and struck out 130. He only walked 34 and posted a 3.65 ERA.
That, and another itself, was enough to get the attention of people, but it was not enough to get the attention of the Cubs fully until the postseason where he won three out of four starts in the College World Series and averaged almost 7 innings a start.
Once Noland begins pitching as a Cub, the first thing that people are going to notice is his slider. It’s considered to be a plus pitch while his fastball lacks the velocity you would normally see from a number one starter in the SEC. Instead, Noland comes in in the upper 80s to the low 90s, but he also has some of the best command-and-control of said fastball. In other words, he puts the fastball exactly where he wants it.
It will be interesting to see what the plan is for Noland. Are the Cubs going to try and ramp up that velocity to get him into the 92-94 range. That would be a little bit better to mix and match with his slider. And it’s still unclear whether the Cubs want him to be a starter or reliever.
If he’s a reliever, that velocity could creep up just naturally out of the bullpen as his arm would not be as tired from going six or seven innings which he was known to do quite frequently.
I am intrigued as to what he’s going to be. We’re probably not going to find out until next year where he’ll probably start off the year either at Myrtle Beach in the rotation or in the bullpen at South Bend. As long as he brings his slider, I’m not really too picky about it.