Kyle Schwarber would be a great bat for the Pirates to take in the first round. (Photo Credit: IU Athletics)

2014 Pirates Draft Prospects: Kyle Schwarber, Matt Imhof, Forrest Wall, Foster Griffin

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.

Week One: Braxton Davidson, Spencer Adams, Casey Gillaspie, Sean Newcomb plus videos of these four players.

Week Two: Luke Weaver, Michael Conforto, Kodi Medeiros, Michael Chavis

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.

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John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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  • Y2JGQ2

    I don’t know why we insist on looking at pitchers round 1. You can find great projectable prep pitchers lower in the draft. What you can’t find, is great hitters that fill difficult positions to play in the major leagues.

    • John Dreker

      The strength of this draft is pitching. If you split it up into four groups, college pitching and HS pitching are easily the two strong groups, while HS hitting is third and college hitting in definitely last. It will all depend who is off the board before they pick. I’m sure the Pirates have their own top 24 and if someone they have ranked 10-15 doesn’t get picked before they make their selection, then they will pick him regardless of position because you’re getting huge value

  • Jared

    John, any thoughts on Zech Lemond, the 2011 50th round selection who has been filthy at Rice? Possible he’d be around at 74?

    • John Dreker

      I was hearing him in the 40-50 range for awhile, but I haven’t heard his name recently, so he may have dropped a little. I would say once you’re in that group, there is always a chance you could fall 15-20 spots and there is also a chance a team could zero in on him and he goes higher.

      • meatygettingsaucy

        Lemond hasn’t pitched since early May due to an an arm injury. He was converted from a reliever this year and promptly forced to throw 100+ pitches in each of his first 5 appearances for Rice. No clear indication if he will need TJ yet.

        • Jared

          I knew he was converted and there was some conversation about the way he’s been handled. I would take the TJ risk with his arm as a comp balance or 2nd round pick. On the low end he’s a high upside reliever (back end of pen) and on the high side he could be a #3 starter.

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