Last year, the Astros went with a couple of "safe", college pitchers with their second and third picks after taking Mark Appel at 1.1. This was initially viewed with some skepticism among fans, including myself. I personally wanted to see Luhnow take some prep players that fell a little bit, much like he did in 2012. However, I got over this after thinking about it a little more carefully. Andrew Thurman and Kent Emmanuel weren't high upside pitchers that will anchor the top of an MLB rotation, but they both have excellent chances at making the major leagues as productive players.
Though a lot depends on what the Astros do with their first pick this year, there are plenty of college arms considered more on the "safe" side of the spectrum that could be of interest to the Astros with their second and third picks in the draft. One of those pitchers is lefty Matt Imhof from Cal Poly, a mid-major team that is about to host an NCAA regional.
Imhof's arsenal doesn't look very impressive on paper. His fastball reportedly touches 93 or 94, but he lives mostly in the 90-91 range and has some cut to it. MLB.com gives it a 60 grade right now. He doesn't have consistently great breaking stuff either, but in a one of the videos below there's definitely a lot of life on a few sliders that he throws. It's probably an above-average offering right now at best, but it had some hitters fooled which leads me to believe there is a lot more potential for the slider. Imhof dabbles with a changeup but doesn't use it a whole lot and it's not as good as the slider.
So, why am I profiling a pitcher with only two decent pitches? That's a good question, but all Imhof has done is dominate the Big West League, so he deserves some recognition. In 91.2 innings this season he's struck out 120 hitters, good for an 11.78 K/9. He currently sits sixth among the nation's leaders in strikeouts, ahead of Carlos Rodon. Even without dominating stuff, Imhof has a strong element of deception in his delivery that keeps hitters off balance. A side note on the competition level; though Imhof's Cal Poly team plays in the Big West, a mid-major conference, he pitched last summer on the collegiate Team USA with a 0.53 ERA in 18 innings, so there's something to be said for that talent level.
Also working in Imhof's favor is his body projection and age. He's 6'5'' 220 lbs., and is noticeably lanky. There's certainly some room to grow there, and he's still 20 years old and won't turn 21 until October. If he can add just a couple of ticks to his fastball he will have an even greater ability to miss bats.
Imhof's delivery look pretty clean. He uses the drop and drive delivery (h/t to Subber10 from his pitching primer) and gets a lot of extension with his right leg toward the plate. His downhill motion makes his delivery sort of funky but there's a lot of power behind it. Imhof's delivery is quite similar to that of Chicago's Chris Sale; thought he probably won't ever have the utterly dominating stuff that Sale possesses, Imhof could develop into a Chris Sale-lite with more progression on his slider. I'll post a video of Sale's mechanics below for those interested in the comparison.
Imhof's floor is probably a decent middle reliever with swing-and-miss stuff. This will happen if his slider doesn't progress, although his fastball would already play pretty well in the majors.
It's hard to envision Imhof at the top of a rotation; however, he could be a very good mid rotation lefty with swing and miss stuff. If the breaking pitches improve and he keeps striking guys out this could be easily attainable, but that's obviously a big question.
Projected Draft Position
Imhof is currently ranked #39 on MLB.com's rankings. He's probably not a first rounder, and I think the highest he could go is somewhere in the first compensation round. I don't think he drops past the early stages of Round Two.
Will he Sign?
Imhof should be a pretty easy sign. Teams that don't get in on the college pitching depth early in the draft could be very interested in Imhof a litte later on. I think the Astros would make a lot of sense if they're still looking for advanced pitching depth and they need a guy who will sign for slot.