MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Hitters can't touch Imhof

Hard as it may be to believe, NCAA Division I's strikeout leader has a fastball that sits around 90-91 mph and lacks an above-average secondary pitch.

Neverthless, hitters struggle to make contact against Cal Poly left-hander Matt Imhof. He opened his junior season by fanning 14 in seven innings against Kansas State and hasn't let up since. He paces Division I in both strikeouts (97) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.0) and has set the tone for a 34-5 Mustangs club that currently owns the highest ranking (No. 2 by Baseball America) in program history.

"He's really deceptive," a national crosschecker said. "He throws from a high slot, and that fastball has got really good angle on it. I think that's where a lot of the sneakiness of his fastball comes from. His 90 looks like 94 and he's got a lot of life on it as well. He misses a lot of bats with 90."

Batters have trouble picking up pitches out of the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder's hand. Imhof's fastball life and his curveball are effective, if not outstanding. He displays some feel for a changeup with some fade, though he rarely uses it during games.

Imhof foreshadowed his breakout junior season with a strong summer with Team USA, during which he allowed just one run and fanned 18 in 17 innings. He improved his record to 8-2, 1.87 by two-hitting slumping Cal State Fullerton over 6 2/3 shutout innings on Thursday. Though he matched his season-high with four walks, he struck out nine and allowed only two runners to reach second base -- one of whom he picked off.

"He's a guy you have to put the radar guy away on," the crosschecker said. "He's tricky. Carlos Rodon, Kyle Freeland and Brandon Finnegan are the top college left-handers, and Imhof doesn't have the big fastball velocity of those guys or the secondary pitches they have. But I see him in the next group and he could go in the second round, maybe a tick higher.

"If there's one kind of Draft pick that seems to overachieve, it has been college left-handers. A lot of guys who we say are No. 5 starters seem to overachieve. He's similar to Drew Smyly and he could be the next in that group."

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.