Pittsburgh Pirates: How Nick Lodolo Fits

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Aug 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington reacts while watching batting practice before the Pirates host the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington reacts while watching batting practice before the Pirates host the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates have selected Damien High School (La Verne, California) left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo in the Lottery Round A portion of the Major League Baseball Draft at number 41.

If you read my Typical Neal Huntington Draft you would have seen the Pirates have taken four straight pitchers from 2009 to 2012, with only Jameson Taillon being a high school pitcher. I described how it’s just a baseline and who knows how their board will follow suit. The Pirates did something they rarely do, take a high school pitcher in the first round, and taking a left-handed pitcher early, the only other being Blake Taylor in 2013.

The pick of left-handed pitcher Nick Lodolo doesn’t fit the Pittsburgh Pirates previous drafts, but it is an aggressive pick, something the Pittsburgh Pirates have never been shy about under Huntington.

MLB Pipeline describes Nick Lodolo as:

"Looking for a high-risk, high-reward proposition? Then Lodolo, the tall lefty from southern California, just might fit the bill."

Lodolo is perceived to be a strong commitment to Texas Christian University, which makes taking him at pick 41 with a pick value of 1.576 million dollars compared to a second round pick with value of 948,900 dollars. The Pittsburgh Pirates obviously think highly of Lodolo to take him at 41 – Baseball America ranks him as their 78th prospect and MLB Pipeline has him at 85. The extra 627,100 dollars in value could make or break signing the left-hander.

Lodolo stands at an impressive six-foot-six and 180 pounds, the typical Pittsburgh Pirates high school draft pick frame for pitchers. He has room to grow into his body and add strength to develop more velocity on his fastball. He currently sits around the upper 80s to lower 90s with the ability to hit 92. He features a curveball in the lower 70s and a changeup, but he needs work on both pitches, especially adding more velocity on the hook. His best aspect may be the fact he controls the strike zone and gets good movement. His height and frame should allow him to add the needed velocity on all three of his pitches.

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Lodolo, as it currently stands, won’t be in the Pittsburgh Pirates top ten of prospects, and even top fifteen could be a stretch. He will likely fit in the Pirates upper teens slotting in front of a Chad Kuhl and Yeudy Garcia type pitchers. Lodolo is more of a projection type arm than anything else. The 18 year old doesn’t have a standout pitch, which makes him the high risk but high reward that MLB Pipeline noted.

If Lodolo signs with the team, he will have plenty of time to develop in the lower levels of the Minor Leagues. The intrigue with Lodolo comes with his frame. The frame projects as a hard thrower, which is something the Pittsburgh Pirates love to draft in pitchers. As he fills out the frame, the velocity spike should be noticeable, whether that be at TCU or in the Pirates organization. If the velocity doesn’t end up being what the frame suggests, Lodolo will need to learn how to pitch with movement and control.

Lodolo is all based on projection, and with not being jumped into the Pirates upper prospect rankings as soon as he is drafted should do well for the 18 year old. The pressure of being a first round pick and performing is tough already, but the Pirates can take their time to develop him and help him fill out his frame.

As Lodolo’s frame fills out though, he will develop into one of the Pirates best pitching prospects. If he adds the velocity, a hard throwing left handed pitcher with control is what Lodolo will be . And left handed pitchers who throw heat will be looked at as front end of the rotation starters.

For now Nick Lodolo is a mid ranged prospect, but as he gets older and fills out his body, he will develop into one of the Pirates top pitching prospects in the system. The Pirates need to be able to convince him to sign first and forgo his commitment to TCU, which is a big first step. But if they can sign him, Lodolo will be an interesting prospect to watch over the course of the next four years to see how he grows and fills out. A top end of the rotation starter, back end starter, or relief pitcher are all realistic option for the young arm from California.

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