Dealing Littrell helps glut of Class A arms

Corey Littrell, who was sent to the Cardinals as part of the John Lackey trade, was a fifth-round pick in last year’s draft as a junior out of the University of Kentucky. He has climbed through the system quickly, skipping Low A Greenville to start 2014 in High A Salem. At the time of the trade, he was ranked 36th on the SoxProspects.com rankings of the top prospects in the system.

In his pro debut in 2013, he excelled against New York-Penn League bats, putting up a 1.74 ERA in 31 innings with 30 strikeouts and 10 walks. This year, against more age-appropriate competition, Littrell has put up a 3.60 ERA in 100 innings with 91 strikeouts and 38 walks.

Littrell is a polished arm, but his stuff is only average. Littrell has a solid, athletic pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and throws from a high three-quarters arm slot with a controlled delivery. His fastball works in the 88-92 mph range and he has solid control of the offering. He complements that with three secondary pitches, an 80-83 mph circle changeup, a low-70s curveball and an 84-86 mph cutter. His changeup is his primary secondary offering, as he shows feel for the pitch and deceptive arm speed. He also has shown the ability to utilize his cutter, throwing it in on the hands of right-handed hitters.

Due to Littrell’s polish and four-pitch mix, he should be able to move relatively quickly. He likely profiles as a middle reliever, but depending on the pitching depth of the organization he’s in, he could be a swingman jumping between the back end of the rotation and a long relief role. From Boston’s perspective, the organization dealt Littrell from an area of depth: There are arguably too many starters in Class A between Greenville and Salem, the result of a pitching-heavy draft focus in 2012 and 2013.