This is part three in our weekly draft preview leading up to the draft. We profile four players each week, focusing on a college pitcher, college hitter and prep pitcher, prep hitter, who have all been mentioned in the Pittsburgh Pirates range in the first round. The 2014 amateur draft starts on June 5th and the Pirates have the 24th overall selection. You can view the previous previews below.
Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana – Schwarber is listed as a catcher, but if the Pirates draft him, you will likely see a move to first base. He may also end up as a corner outfielder, though first base is a position of need in the system and his big lefty bat will play well there. All of his value is in his bat, which comes with tons of power potential and he should be able to hit for average in the pros as well. He has a solid approach at the plate and has shown the ability to draw some walks and not chase bad pitches. His bat is one of the best in this class and as a college player, he should move quick through the system. Schwarber recently matched up with the Pirates in Baseball America’s first mock draft. Video courtesy of Baseball Prospectus.
Matt Imhof, LHP, Cal Poly – Imhof is a lefty with command of a good fastball that has low-90’s velocity, plenty of movement and he throws it downhill. He is listed at 6’5″, 220 pounds, so he has the size you would like from a starter. What he is missing is a second above average offering, so while he gets by with his stuff in college, he will need to improve his change-up and slider in the pros. In 13 starts for Cal Poly, he has a 2.44 ERA, with 116 strikeouts and a .195 BAA over 84.2 innings. He also struck out 13 batters in his last start versus Cal Irvine, including four strikeouts against Taylor Sparks, who will be drafted somewhere in the first two rounds. Imhof is young for the class, turning 21 in five months. For comparison, Forrest Griffin, the prep pitcher listed below, is only 21 months younger than Imhof. That still gives Imhof some upside and a chance to develop into a middle of the rotation starter. Video courtesy of Big League Futures.
Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian HS (FL) – Wall has been around the Pirates range all season, usually rated in the 30-35 range, but some have put him higher. The position limits his draft potential, as most teams won’t pick a second baseman too high in the draft. Wall is athletic, but past injuries limit his arm to second base. That might not be a problem though because his bat is strong and he has above average speed, making him a valuable offensive player. Wall should hit for average, hit for power and add in some stolen bases. As a lefty, the power will play up at PNC. His defense at second base is at least average, though his arm is not. With his speed and athleticism, he shouldn’t cost the team anything on defense. Video courtesy of Baseball Instinct.
Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy (FL) – Griffin is a projectable lefty that already offers a strong arsenal. He has decent size at 6’5″, 195 and the frame to handle a heavy workload in the future. He sits low-90’s, with good control and an above average change-up, but needs work on his third pitch(curve or slider depending on who you ask). That type of pitcher seems like a perfect fit for PNC Park and the Pirates system. They focus on fastball command and developing a change-up and he has already checked both of those things off. Once he fills out, he can be a 200 IP pitcher with two plus pitches from the left side and an off-speed offering that should eventually be average. That would make him the top LHP prospect in the Pirates system. He has more upside than Imhof and isn’t that far behind him when you could consider the velocity is the same and the change-up is better. Video courtesy of Baseball Factory.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.