There was an explosion of cheering, some screaming. Somebody knocked over a chair.
Cal Poly pitcher Matt Imhof was taken in the second round, 47th overall, by the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday, and the outburst by his roommates and family was rowdy enough to drown out the ensuing evaluation of the pick by MLB Network analysts on the big screens at Charlie’s Place.
Sounds like it put the din at the Mustangs’ selection show party two weeks ago to shame. “A little bit,” Imhof said. “The difference was at the selection show, we already knew we were hosting. It wasn’t a surprise for us. For me, I didn’t really know what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I was going to get picked today.”
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound left-hander went higher than some projected. He was ranked as the 58th-best prospect by Baseball America and made a huge splash considering he wasn’t drafted out of Fremont Mission San Jose High in 2011.
Imhof becomes the third-highest player ever drafted out of Cal Poly. Catcher John Orton was taken 25th overall by the then-California Angels in 1987, and outfielder Mitch Haniger went 38th overall to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012. Lefty pitcher Garrett Olson was taken 48th overall by the Baltimore Orioles in 2005.
Though he had spoken with team representatives this year, Imhof said he hadn’t considered Philadelphia among the short list of teams coveting him since he hadn’t heard from the organization recently. But he chalked it all up to the cloak and dagger games of the draft.
“I’m just so thankful for the opportunity to play professional baseball,” Imhof said. “I knew I was going to go somewhere today. It happened to be the Phillies and I’m just glad it happened.”
As the Friday-night starter in a banner season for the Mustangs, Imhof was 10-4 with a 2.45 ERA. He struck out 124 batters in 99 1⁄3 innings, a rate that led the Big West Conference and ranked fifth in the nation.
His 15 strikeouts against Seattle in early March were a single-game Division I program record for Cal Poly, which won its first Big West title, ranked as high as No. 1 in one major poll this season and hosted the first NCAA Regional in school history this past weekend.
The MLB assigned signing bonus value for the 47th pick for the Phillies is $1,187,900.
Precise signing bonus values are still negotiable, but the league designates values before the draft to each franchise, which have an allowable cap to spend within the first 10 rounds.
Imhof was the lone Cal Poly player selected on the first day of the draft, which included the first 74 picks, the first and second rounds and competitive balance rounds A and B.
Mustangs outfielder Nick Torres and closer Reed Reilly are expected to be taken sometime today, when rounds three through 10 will play out.
A popular term to describe Imhof, who’s armed with a cutting fastball topping out in the low 90s, a slider and a developing change-up, is late-bloomer.
He signed with the Mustangs during the spring of his senior year after making a verbal commitment to accept a scholarship with Stanford, the school he’d grown up dreaming of attending. But, Imhof said, he wasn’t able to gain admission to Stanford and went back on the recruiting market.
Attending a prospect camp at Cal Poly, Imhof pitched a couple of innings and said Mustangs coach Larry Lee offered him a scholarship on the spot. Then Lee and pitching coach Thomas Eager helped transform him into a coveted prospect.
“It was the best three years of my life making the decision to play baseball for coach Lee and Eags. It was the best thing I could have done. They were the first ones to show me the right path.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and the Cal Poly program. It’s been an unbelievable experience, and I’m really going to miss it.”