Midwest Regional Feature: Mikolas Back Home in Kenosha
This is the seventh of a ten-part series previewing all ten regions of the United States. The schedule is as follows:
My far the biggest story of the region is the draft prospects of two Ohio pitchers, Solon LHP Matthew Smoral and Vandalia Butler RHP Taylore Cherry. Both were heavily followed all of last summer playing for the Midland Redskins and both pitched for Royals Baseball Club at the 2011 WWBA World Championship. Both pitchers have a chance to be first round picks with Smoral currently rated No. 4 in the Perfect Game 2012 Rankings with Cherry coming in at No. 23. The two square off April 21 at Midland Field (see below).
The type of hype that figures to surround Smoral and Cherry this spring will likely be matched if not exceeded over the next 15 months for Kentucky RHP Clinton Hollon. Currently ranked No. 1 in the PG 2013 rankings, Hollon first opened eyes at the 2010 15u WWBA where he topped at 91 as a 15 year old. He hasn’t looked back since then, refining his off-speed pitches that have a chance to be plus pitches and gaining more velocity. He topped at 97 at East Coast Pro and 96 at the WWBA World Championship in October.
Wide Open Illinois Field
The field was as wide open as ever in 2011 as the top teams in Illinois beat up on each other throughout the spring. Providence Catholic and Mt. Carmel looked to be the top two teams, but they were each stopped by LaGrange Lyons who beat Mt. Carmel in the 4A semifinals and Providence in the title game. Providence looks to be strong again and will be bolstered by the addition of SS/RHP Ryan Koziol who transferred from Brother Rice. They will get lots of competition as Mt. Carmel will be strong as usual as will St. Rita, Lyons, Stevenson, and Marian Catholic.
Another state with a title race that could be wide open. Last year’s 4A champion Ft. Wayne Carroll looks to be strong as usual as does perennial power Indianapolis Cathedral who will have to overcome the loss of LHP/OF Dillon Peters, now at the University of Texas. Zionsville, New Albany, and Brownsburg are other teams to watch. The state’s 2013 looks to be one of the strongest in recent memory with LHP/OF Trey Ball, LHP Josh Rogers, RHP/IF Zac Ryan, and IF Wes Edrington all ranked in the Top 200 prospects in the class.
The Wisconsin outfielder has been attending PG events since 2007 and has blossomed into one of the top OF prospects in the 2012 class. Jeff Dahn profiles the Louisville commit here.
March 31 Fort Wayne Carroll (IN) @ New Albany (IN)
A very interesting matchup with Carroll the defending 4A champion take on what should be a very talented New Albany team led by LHP/OF Trey Ball. Carroll players to watch are OF Grant Wilson and 1B/RHP Steve Remesnik.
April 7 Defiance (OH) @ Bowling Green (OH)
This Northwest Ohio matchup features a Defiance team that has a top player in the 2012 (OF/RHP Anthony Kidston) and 2013 (Robert Zeigler) class. Bowling Green boasts Michigan commit RHP Daniel McKinney. Could be a dandy pitching matchup.
April 21 Solon (OH) vs. Vandalia Butler (OH) @ Midland Field
A game that almost every crosschecker and scouting director has had circled for months. Historic Midland Field will host the best pitching matchup Ohio has seen in years. Solon’s LHP Matthew Smoral and Butler RHP Taylore Cherry both look like good bets to be first round picks in June. PG will be covering the event live as our National High School Game of the Week.
April 21 Farragut (TN) @ Lexington Catholic (KY)
April 21 will be a busy day. Farragut and their loaded roster travel north to Lexington to face a Catholic team that looks like the class of the Bluegrass State. Catholic figures to start 2012 RHP Zach Haynes, an Indiana commit and Farragut could counter with 2013 RHP Kyle Serrano or 2013 RHP Eric Freeman.
April 21 Andrean (IN) @ Marian Catholic (IL)
Interstate matchups are always fun and gives us a good idea of where to place teams in Regional Rankings when comparing teams from five or six states. This one has intrigue as both teams look to be in contention for state titles and the pitching matchup could be 2013 RHP Zac Ryan (Andrean) facing 2012 LHP Brett Lilek (Marian).
Midwest High School Dream Team
C Jason Goldstein, Sr. Highland Park (IL)
The Perfect Game All-American is one of the best all around catchers in the 2012 class. He has a strong body with strength in his swing, power potential and is also a very good catch and throw backstop who has shown pop times in the 1.8s and good arm strength behind the plate. The Illinois commit had a great performance at the 2011 PG National Showcase and had a very good week in San Diego for the PG All American Game. Another 2012 catchers to watch is Casey Schroeder (OH) and two 2013s from Illinois are also top prospects, Blake Hickman and Chuckie Robinson.
1B Jeff Murray, Sr. Reynoldsburg (OH)
Murray is one of the more consistent hitters in the region. He has an easy approach, smooth, left-handed swing and current power with projection for more. Murray has strength in his swing and already shows the ability to drive the ball to all fields, something that commonly takes young power hitters longer to accomplish. The region is deep in first baseman. Zach Stoner (IL), Cale Giddings (OH), Ryan Nagle (IL), Ryan Levenhagen (IN), Clark Pence (IN), and Zach Ratcliff (OH) are other top prospects.
2B Forrest Perron, Sr. Strongsville (OH)
Perron is the best prospect on a very good Strongsville team. He is an instinctual player with good middle infield tools, quick actions and plenty of arm strength. He has a good approach at the plate and has a smooth line drive stroke, and is also a very good baserunner. He doubles a RHP and has been up to 87 in the past. He is a Cincinnati commit. Tommy Mirabelli is another Buckeye state second sacker with a lot of potential. He has committed to Kansas.
SS Kevin Ross, Sr. Niles West (IL)
Shortstop is a strong position in the region and Ross is as good as they come. A strong, well proportioned athlete he has a solid approach and bat speed with power. He is a good athlete at SS with quick feet and good defensive actions. Other top SS are Troy Kuhn (IN), Travis Maezes (MI), Will Hurt (KY), and Connor Heady (KY).
3B Xavier Turner, Sr. Sandusky (OH)
A good overall player, Turner shows athleticism and strength as well as soft hands in the field and plenty of arm strength for the 3B position. He also has quick hands with a strong compact swing. The ball jumps off his bat. He is committed to play at Vanderbilt. Additional top 3B are Devin Pickett (IL) and Bryce Only (IL).
OF Corey Ray, Jr. Simeon (IL)
OF Nathan Mikolas, Sr. Bradford (WI)
OF Anthony Kidston, Sr. Defiance (OH)
An interesting and versatile OF. Ray is a very good athlete who had a breakout performance this fall both at the WWBA Underclass Championship and WWBA World Championship. He is a very good defender and has a fluid left-handed stroke with bat speed. Mikolas is a very polished bat and has held his own in summer tournaments and showcases against players from all over the country. He also had a breakout performance playing for the Reds Midwest Scout Team at the WWBA World Championship. Kidston, who was also considered for the utility spot is a good athlete whose arm makes him a top defender in the OF, projecting for right field. He also is very aggressive at the plate and has a strong right handed stroke with big power potential. Outfielders also deserving mention are Andrew Benintendi (OH), Joba Ferrell (IL), Kyle Richardson (IL), Colin Lyman (IL), and Antony Ray (IL).
UTIL Trey Ball, Jr. OF/LHP, New Castle (IN)
Ball has gotten rave reviews over the last year from coaches and scouts and has proved to be one of the top players in the 2013 class. Initially he was thought of as a LHP prospect as he is long, loose and projectable arm with low 90s velo and a curveball with bite. He is now seen as a legitimate two-way prospect as he is a sub 6.8 runner with the athleticism to play center field and a smooth line drive swing with power to come. Other very good two way prospects are the aforementioned Kidston (OH), Ryan Koziol (IL). Matthew Vorbeck (KY), and Andrew Benintendi (OH).
P Matthew Smoral, Sr. Solon (OH)
P Taylore Cherry, Sr. Vandalia Butler (OH)
P Justin Alleman, Sr. Holt (MI)
P Clinton Hollon, Jr. Woodford County (KY)
P Walker Buehler, Sr. Clay (KY)
An impressive group of arms to say the least. Smoral is the mostly highly touted and staked a permanent claim on a Top 10 spot in the Perfect Game Class of 2012 rankings with a great performance at the WWBA World Championships in October. He topped at 94 with very little effort and threw an 84 mph slider with depth and late bite. Cherry has a XL build and has loose arm action, the ball seeming to jump out of his hand. He was up to 94 at 2011 PG National and was 91-92 in the fall. It has been speculated that Cherry has the body and easy arm action to continue to add velocity in the upper 90s. Justin Alleman was a unknown until he topped at 91 at the 2011 East Coast Pro. He has continued to mature with a very good performance at the 2012 World Showcase, topping at 92 with loose arm action and an 82-84 mph curveball with depth. Hollon is the top player in the 2013 class with a heater that has reached 98. An athlete who repeats his delivery and has a chance for three quality off-speed offerings. Buehler may be the most underrated arm in the 2012 class. He has present velocity up to 92, easy arm action and great feel for his breaking pitches. Definitely an arm to watch. Other pitchers: Brett Lilek (IL), Kyle Funkhouser (IL), Nick Stroud (IL), Matt Schultz (IL), Kevin Elder (IL), Ryan Perez (IL), Luke Stephenson (RHP), Jordan Minch (IL), Jake Post (IN), Chase Mullins (KY), Robert Zeigler (OH), Josh Rogers (IN), Zach Farmer (OH), Matthew Ruppenthal (MI), Jonah Patten (IN).
Midwest Region Best Tools
Best Hitter For Average Travis Maezes, Sr. SS, Brother Rice (MI)
Maezes is as good a pure hitter you will find. He uses a short swing from the left side and consistently squares up balls with hard barrel contact. He is adept at handling velocity, uses the whole field and has present pop in his bat with more to come as he adds strength. Other players considered: Nathan Mikolas (WI), Kevin Ross (IL), Kyle Richardson (IL), Nolan Rogers (IN),
Best Hitter For Power Chuckie Robinson, Jr. C/1B, Danville (IL)
Big and strong is the first thing that comes to mind when you see Robinson. He has some of the best pull power in the 2013 class and also has the present strength to drive the ball to the opposite field. He jumped on a lot of scout’s radar with a big 2011 summer and looks to do so again in 2012. Others: Casey Schroeder (OH), Ray Brewer (KY), and Dylan Creech (KY).
Best Baserunner Anthony Ray, Sr. OF, St. Rita (IL)
Playing for Chicago power St. Rita, Ray is a player with very good instincts on the bases and very good raw speed. A left-handed hitter, he uses a short line drive swing and uses his speed to his advantage. He is one of the many athletic Chicago area OF to watch for 2012 and beyond. A couple of Kentucky infielders, Will Hurt and Connor Heady also deserve mention in this category.
Best Defensive Catcher Jason Goldstein, Sr. C, Highland Park (IL)
Goldstein has some of the best fundamentals behind the plate we have seen in the 2012 class. He is very compact with all his movements, has good footwork and arm strength, gains ground with his feet and shows arm strength. High quality defensive catchers are a premium at any level and should help Goldstein’s draft stock. Also considered: Cameron Whitehead (OH), Brett Sunde (MI), Dalton West (KY).
Best Defensive Infielder Will Hurt, Sr. SS, Lexington Cathoic (KY)
Hurt has improved a lot since his first PG event, the 2009 Atlantic Coast Underclass Showcase. He is a plus runner with quick feet and showed as good ever at the 2012 World Showcase, He has clean actions, smooth thru the ball, working thru it and staying balanced. He has a quick release and his arm is very playable. Devin Pickett (IL) and Wes Edrington (IN) are also high level defensive infielders.
Best Defensive Outfielder Corey Ray, Jr. OF, Simeon (IL)
The top ranked 2013 in Illinois, Ray is a smooth player with bat speed and quickness on the bases. He excels on defense, playing CF, showing good reads, quick feet while covering a lot of ground. He is fluid and his arm is solid with a very quick release. Others to mention: Joba Ferrell (IL), Anthony Kidston (OH), and Kyle Richardson (IL).
Best Infield Arm Xavier Turner, Sr. 3B, Sandusky (OH)
Turner’s arm strength and accuracy allow him to project to stay at 3B, a good place for him as his power bat should make him a valuable player at the position. He has smooth arm strength and the quick actions needed for the position. Connor Heady (KY) is another infielder who has shown a lot of arm strength from the left side of the infield.
Best Outfield Arm Anthony Kidston, Sr. OF, Defiance (OH)
Kidston is an upper 80s arm on the mound, and his arm is well suited to right field. He has s compact build and good athletic actions, allowing him to release the ball quickly with accuracy and carry. He is a very interesting follow and a player who has not gotten a lot of draft buzz in the past. A couple of utility prospects, Matthew Vorbeck (KY) and Trey Ball (IN) have shown big time arm strength from the outfield.
Best Fastball Clinton Hollon, Jr. RHP, Woodford County (KY)
A number of arms in the region have been in the low to mid 90s with their fastball, but none have reached the upper 90s as Hollon has. He was 98 at 2011 East Coast Pro and 96 at the WWBA World Championships. That velocity merits a ton of attention and he is currently ranked No. 1 in the 2013 Class.
Best Offspeed Stuff Walker Buehler, Sr. RHP, Clay (KY)
The one word in almost every PG scouting report on Buehler is “Nasty” describing his curveball. It is consistently 76-78 with hard downer spin, nasty bite, plus sharpness and depth, basically everything you look for in a curveball. That pitch along with an 89-92 mph fastball is enough to get a majority of hitters out, but he has also thrown a slider at 80-81 with shorter break and a straight changeup that has rarely been needed. Buehler’s off-speed stuff stacks up well against any other pitcher in the country.
Best Command Chase Mullins, Sr. LHP, Bourbon County (KY)
With a 6’9 250 pound build and very easy arm action, Mullins pumps strikes with a fastball sat that 86-89, touching 90, a slider at 75-76 that he changes speeds with and an 78-80 mph changeup with sink. He has very good command of his slider and repeats his delivery very well. Others: Ryne Combs (KY) and Tucker Linder (OH).
Best Pitchability Matthew Smoral, Sr. LHP, Solon (OH)
Smoral doesn’t have the one attribute to hang his hat on, but is the most complete pitcher in the region and maybe the 2012 class. He easily throws low 90s fastballs, touching 94, has good fell for a tight, hard breaking slider and also throws a good straight change. He repeats his delivery and has command of all three, putting him on the short list of pitchers you would want on the mound against any lineup.
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Midwest Top 25 Regional Rankings