The Pittsburgh Pirates have drafted left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo with the 41st pick in the 2016 draft. This is a high upside pick with some risk. Lodolo is a prep pitcher out of Damien high school in California. He has a strong commitment to TCU, and with the new draft rules, you have to take players early if they might be tough to sign, since those are the picks with the higher bonus amounts.
Lodolo doesn’t have much velocity right now, usually sitting 88-90 MPH, but with the ability to hit 92-93 at times. Keith Law had him sitting 88-92 MPH at the end of the 2016 season. He does have a big, projectable frame at 6′ 6″, 180 pounds, and throws on a downhill angle. He can also command the pitch to both sides of the plate. That’s a classic Pirates combination for prep pitchers.
The secondary stuff doesn’t get good reviews right now. The curveball can flash plus at times, but also gets a lot of below-average grades, coming in as a low 70 MPH pitch. He has a feel for a changeup, but needs to develop it in order to get it to at least an average pitch.
One interesting thing here is that Law says his arm slot is too low for a guy his size, and isn’t good for his curveball command. Law suggests scrapping the curveball and going for a slider, which would work better for the current slot. You’d have to wonder if the Pirates might consider the alternative of raising the arm slot and going for more of a power three-quarters delivery.
The height is appealing here. The Pirates have a good history of drafting prep guys and putting them through a strength program that involves daily throwing, proper nutrition, and weight lifting, in order to add muscle to a tall, skinny frame. This has led to an increase in velocity in a few cases, with two of the bigger success stories being Tyler Glasnow (who was throwing 88-91 in high school) and Nick Kingham (also in the 88-92 range).
If Lodolo can add some muscle and add velocity to his fastball, then he might be an appealing pitcher as a tall lefty. He’s got the chance to be a middle of the rotation arm, although anything can happen here with a guy who has this much projection.