Draft : : State Preview
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

State Preview: Illinois

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players as ranked in Perfect Game's state-by-state scouting lists.

Contributing: Allan Simpson

Illinois State-by-State List
2011 Illinois Overview

Illinois Overview:
Down Year for Talent in State, Despite Ideal Conditions

It’s been an historically warm and sunny spring in the upper Midwest, prompting veteran area scouts to shed their normal multiple layers of clothing—and even complain, at times, about getting too much sun over the past two months. The beneficiary of the mild spring weather, all grumbling from scouts aside, has been the top baseball talent in the area. Most players have gotten rare extra looks from scouts, not to mention ideal conditions to compete under.

However it has been a slow year for Illinois, although not as weak as 2011 when only one player, New Trier High outfielder Charles Tilson (Cardinals/2nd
 round), was picked in the top eight rounds. Fast-rising Carmel Catholic High lefthander Alex Young is the only player in the state currently projected to go within the first five rounds, although Niles West High infielder Kevin Ross could also slip into that range. Several other Illinois high-school players have warranted attention in the top 10-12 rounds, but don’t figure to be drafted that high because of injury or signabilty reasons.

At the college level, Southern Illinois red-shirt junior first baseman Chris Serritella has predictably enjoyed a big season at the plate after missing 2011 with a broken bone in his wrist, and will likely be the first Illinois collegian off the board, possibly as early as the fifth to sixth rounds. Hard-throwing Illinois reliever Matt Milroy is also a probable selection in the top 10 rounds.

Meanwhile, it is unlikely that Illinois will have a representative in the NCAA Division I baseball tournament as only two of the state’s 11 D-I teams, Illinois State (No. 59) and Illinois (No. 88) rank inside the top 120 in the national RPI rankings. Illinois (28-25) failed to make the six-team Big Ten Conference tournament, while Illinois State (31-17) could advance by winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament as a No. 4 seed, as could sixth-seeded Southern Illinois (28-27) and seventh-seeded Bradley (26-25).

The most positive developments this spring in Illinois have probably come at the junior-college level.  Wabash Valley righthander Conor Fisk (14-2, 2.71) and John A. Logan lefthander Derek Thompson (8-1, 1.50), have taken a big step forward this spring, and have generated solid interest from scouts as potential top 10 picks.

Illinois in a nutshell:

Alex Young, power bats.
WEAKNESS: Athletes, college prospects.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 2.

Illinois State.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Alex Young, lhp, Carmel Catholic HS, Hawthorn Woods.
There are very few high-school prospects around the country that have gone from light area-scout follow to serious national cross-checker material on the strength of a couple of early-season starts, but the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Young has accomplished that this spring. He made the transition from an upper-80s thrower to low-90s pitcher with three quality offerings during the off-season and may now rank as the top high-school lefthander in the entire Midwest, ranging from the Canadian border to the Gulf. The unusually mild Illinois winter and spring weather has given Young plenty of plenty of opportunity for scouts to catch up with him, whereas that might have been a problem in some years.

WILD CARD: Blake Hickman, c/rhp, Simeon Academy, Chicago.
Hickman had a very high scouting profile entering his senior year, with trips to Perfect Game’s National Showcase last June and the Area Code Games last August to his credit, along with a couple of trips to World Wood Bat Association championship events. His very athletic 6-foot-4, 200-pound build is an obvious attention getter, as are his above-average raw power and arm strength.  Hickman’s spring season took an unfortunate turn when he was hit in the throat by a wild pitch while catching, and had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he underwent an emergency tracheotomy. He missed only 11 games, though, and blasted a huge home run in one of his first games back to signal his return. Hickman has committed to Iowa, where he might get an opportunity to show off his considerable arm on the mound.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Illinois Connection:
Scott Firth, rhp, Clemson University (Attended high school in Lincolnshire).
Top 2013 Prospect: Corey Ray, of, Simeon Academy, Chicago.
Top 2014 Prospect: Sam Coonrod, rhp, Southern Illinois University.


Draft History:
Danny Goodwin, c, Central HS, Peoria (1971, White Sox/1st round, 1st pick).
2006 Draft: Joe Benson, c, Joliet Catholic HS (Twins/2nd round).
2007 Draft: Jake Smolinski, 3b, Boylan Catholic HS, Rockford (Nationals/2nd round).
2008 Draft: Jake Odorizzi, rhp, Highland HS (Brewers/1st round, 32nd pick).
2009 Draft: Tyler Kehrer, lhp, Eastern Illinois University (Angels/1st round, 48th pick).
2010 Draft: Mike Foltyniewicz, rhp, Minooka Community (Astros/1st round/19th pick).
2011 Draft: Charlie Tilson, of, New Trier HS, Winnetka (Cardinals/2nd round).


College Players Drafted/Signed:
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 5/2.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 16/4.


Best Athlete:
Blake Hickman, c/rhp, Simeon Academy, Chicago.
Best Hitter: Kevin Ross, 3b, Niles West HS, Skokie.
Best Power: Chris Serritella, 1b, Southern Illinois University.
Best Speed: Tyler Palmer, of, Oakton CC.
Best Defender: Jason Goldstein, c, Highland Park HS.
Best Velocity: Matt Milroy, rhp, University of Illinois.
Best Breaking Stuff: Alex Young, lhp, Carmel Catholic HS, Hawthorn Woods.
Best Pitchability: Joe Bircher, lhp, Bradley University.


(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. ALEX YOUNG, lhp, Carmel Catholic HS, Hawthorn Woods
Young was barely on the prospect radar at the beginning of the 2012 season, but has clearly emerged as the top prospect in the state, and is a potential top-three-round draft pick. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound southpaw has improved both his overall stuff and command significantly from his junior year, and scouts have proclaimed how he could have the whole package of tools and skills one day, if he develops his velocity even further. His fastball topped out at 92 mph this spring, but often graded out as his third best pitch behind his curve and changeup. As a three-sport athlete, Young has a well-balanced and easy delivery that he repeats well, and he projects above-average command. While Young doesn’t have the same power arm of fellow upper-Midwest pitchers Mitchell Brown (Minnesota) and Alec Rash (Iowa), both righthanders, his overall package from the left side could put him right in the same draft area as those two, should scouts get indications that he is willing to pass on his scholarship to Texas Christian.

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