Player: Matt Imhof
Drafted by: Philadelphia Phillies
DOB: 10/26/1993 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6'5", 220 pounds
School: Cal Poly
Previously Drafted: Never drafted
If you want to know what the college experience can do for a player, Matt Imhof is the perfect example. The tall left-hander has grown into his frame the last three years after going undrafted in 2011, looking every bit the part of a workhorse starting pitcher.
Even more encouraging is that he actually has room to fill out his body and add another mile or two to an above-average fastball. He's taken to the role of Cal Poly's Friday night starter—in college circles, the equivalent of a Game 1 starter—including a 3-1 ratio of strikeouts to walks this season.
There's always the concern that a pop-up prospect, which Imhof certainly is, without a long track record of success at the college level will fall on his face against professional hitters. But left-handers with his size and stuff don't come along very often.
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.
Imhof's mechanics are unorthodox, which causes him problems with command and consistency with the secondary stuff; his right (lead) leg comes up, goes down and then moves forward as he comes to the plate, making it difficult to find the same release point from pitch to pitch; arm action is also a little long in the back, further hindering command.
The good news is Imhof's size allows him to pitch on a steep downhill plane with the fastball, making it difficult for hitters to get good elevation even when they make solid contact; has a great pitcher's body and can at least log innings in a starting rotation.
There are advantages to being left-handed, which Imhof capitalizes; fastball sits in the low 90s, touches 95 mph and moves in on left-handed hitters, giving it the illusion of being a cutter; gets excellent plane on the pitch and throws it for strikes with regularity; more velocity in the body coming, which leads to a plus projection for the heater.
Imhof's breaking ball flashes above average at times, showing hard tilt down in the zone; can be the swing-and-miss pitch he needs to be a mid-rotation starter, though there are times when he will short arm the pitch, causing it to break with less tilt and staying in the zone long enough to find a barrel; good velocity, often in the high 70s, and the shape often suggests an MLB-quality pitch.
A pitcher with Imhof's size, natural fastball movement and quality slider doesn't leave a lot of room for a third pitch; has some feel for the changeup, but throwing it for strikes is still a problem; needs to keep it around the zone for hitters to respect it; arm speed is solid with good velocity separation from the fastball.
Imhof has no problems throwing the fastball for strikes; knows how to sequence well, working primarily off the heater while continuing to develop the secondary stuff; feel for the slider and changeup are still coming along; long arm action can lead to erratic moments, but he usually finds himself quickly.
Best thing that can be said about Imhof is that he knows how to use the fastball; young pitchers can get lost while trying to pile up their stats that throwing off-speed stuff in fastball counts, which leads to speeding up the bats of a player who wouldn't be able to catch the heater; needs better placement of all his pitches in the zone, especially the off-speed stuff; as long as fastball is around the zone, he will be solid.
MLB Player Comparison: Mike Minor
Atlanta drafted Mike Minor out of Vanderbilt in 2009 when he had average pitches and a good command profile. The tall left-hander added some extra giddyup on the fastball and refined his off-speed stuff, notably the slider and changeup, to become a very good starter in a deep rotation.
Imhof has that kind of ceiling, though he will need more development time in the minors than Minor did.
Projection: No. 3 starter on a first-division team
MLB ETA: 2017
Chances of Signing: 85 percent
Imhof is going to get a lot of money from this draft, if for no other reason than he's a 6'5" left-handed starter who can touch 95 mph with flashes of two average-or-better off-speed pitches. Every system in baseball wants one of those arms, but so few of them are able to get it. There's always the chance he could take the Mark Appel route and bet on himself to jump into the top 10 next year, especially since he's a young college junior, though it would be a huge gamble that could just as easily result in disaster.