High School : : General
Thursday, February 27, 2014

Regional HS Preview: Midwest

Jheremy Brown        
Photo: Perfect Game

2014 Perfect Game High School Baseball Preview Index

Midwest Region: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin

It’s an Arms Race

Although the depth of position players in the Midwest may not be evident, there’s no mistaking the amount of quality arms throughout the region. Regardless of the state or graduation year, the Midwest boasts pitchers that presently show big-time stuff and others who will be premier arms in the not-so-distant future.

Starting with Illinois, the Prairie State is led by Notre Dame commit Jake Godfrey, who was joined by big righthander Brad Bass and lefty Jake Latz on the Cangelosi team in Jupiter. Godfrey is the jewel of the class, working in the low-90s with a feel for two pitches that have potential to be plus offerings. Junior Trent Johnson is as physically opposing as Godfrey and Bass, standing at 6-foot-4 with an easy arm action and comfortably sits in the upper-80s, often touching 90 mph.

The sophomore class has a chance to be a special one with two of the top arms in the class in righthanders Anthony Holubecki (Notre Dame commit) and Drake Fellows (Vanderbilt). Both pitchers have young, projectable frames and show easy velocity, making it easy to envision both throwing in the mid-90s by their senior years. Holubecki had a strong performance at the Perfect Game Indoor Showcase earlier this month, gaining strength throughout his outing and maintaining his upper-80s velocity very well with frequent 90 mph readings.

Indiana is equally as strong on the mound, led by senior righthanders Brandon Murray and Jonah Patten. Murray was a Perfect Game All-American last summer and is documented in detail below. Jonah Patten is an Arkansas commit who shows a fastball in the low-90s and demonstrates the ability to repeat his mechanics very well.

The 2015 class in Indiana is as strong as any with big righthanded pitchers Bryan Hoeing, Ashe Russell, and Noah Burkholder at the forefront. All three pitchers are 6-foot-4 or taller and project extremely well as they continue to fill out. They make a formidable trio at the top of the rankings, and are joined by Florida State commit Jarrett Montgomery and Virginia commit Grant Sloan in the top 100 rankings.

Like 2016 prospect Drake Fellows above, Reid Schaller of Lebanon Senior High School is a projectable, low-90s righty committed to Vanderbilt.

Joining Fellows and Schaller in the top 50 of the class of 2016 rankings are Jack Weisenburger and Dion Henderson, both residents of Michigan who show upper-80s fastballs and a strong feel on the mound.

Kentucky and Ohio have hard throwers in Micah Miniard – who is 6-foot-7 with plenty of projectability and a fastball up to 94 mph – Zack Shannon and Cameron Varga, who are both mentioned in greater detail below. 2015s Riley Thompson, Samuel Bordner, Austin Havekost, and Chandler Day have a similar profile to most of the pitchers previously mentioned, as all four are long limbed, projectable and comfortably top out in the low-90s at present. Sophomore Christopher Machamer is an elite two-way talent who shines on the mound, having topped out at 91 mph last summer with a nice curveball.

The state of Wisconsin returns last year's Gatorade Player of the Year, Scott Schreiber, an athletic righthander with a fastball that breaks into the low-90s. Bryant Jordan is a loose armed 2015 righthander who produces easy velocity with excellent command to go along with a deep 12-to-6 curveball with tight spin.

New arms are sure to emerge, but the names highlighted above are certainly a strong start. The talent is strong and seems to improve with each graduation class, making it exciting to see what is in store for the future.

Midwest High School Dream Team
Based on present tools and position played for high school team

C - Simeon Lucas, Sr. Grant Community (Ill.)
Lefthanded hitting catchers who project to stay behind the plate at the next level are always a hot commodity, and those two traits are present in Simeon Lucas. At the plate Lucas shows big-time strength, regularly creating hard and loud contact, especially to his pull side. He has an advanced approach at the plate with the ability to recognize and adjust to quality off-speed offerings within an at-bat. The Illinois State commit is just as effective behind the plate with his defensive prowess detailed below in the Top Tools section.

1B - Cory Wright, Jr. St. Charles North (Ill.)
To sum it up, Cory Wright is a high energy gamer that gives 100 percent each time he steps on the field. He shows excellent defensive actions around the bag with fluid footwork and soft hands. The Kansas State commit continues to improve his overall game and has started to fill out his 6-foot-1 frame, which has made an impact in the batter’s box. A lefthanded batter, Wright owns a smooth stroke with sound bat speed and has consistently shown the ability to get the barrel to the ball. More power is expected to come as he continues to fill out with strength, and he already shows exciting potential.

MIF - Charlie Donovan, Jr. Westmont (Ill.)
Donovan leads the way in the middle infield thanks in part to the variety of tools he brings to the game. To start, he shows smooth, athletic actions with plenty of range to either side, and should be able to stay up the middle at the next level as a result. His hands are soft and sure with a very quick transfer of the ball, giving himself plenty of time to make a strong, accurate throws. A lefthanded hitter, Donovan projects as a top of the order line drive hitter who runs very well. He shows a smooth, fluid swing with loose wrists and solid bat speed.

MIF - Daniel Neal, Jr. South Laurel (Ky.)
Although his tools may profile best at third base at the next level with his big arm strength and power at the plate, Neal shows the ability to play up the middle at present. He moves well on his feet in the infield – he runs a sub 7.0 second 60-yard dash – and shows a quick transfer on big throws that carry well across the infield. With his 6-foot-3 frame, the Tennessee commit creates nice, loose extension out front with leverage, and is able to drive the ball, especially to his pull side. He uses his quick hands and good bat speed to consistently get the barrel to the ball, resulting in hard, loud contact. Neal shows big pull-side power presently and projects for more as he continues to fill out physically.

3B - Evan Skoug, Sr. Libertyville (Ill.)
A primary catcher, where he shows a strong arm and sound receiving skills, Skoug usually played third base during the summer circuit whenever teammate Simeon Lucas was behind the plate. No matter where the Texas Christian University commit plays, he is sure to impact the game with his bat. Skoug creates some of the hardest contact on a regular basis in the batter’s box, regularly producing exit velocities in the upper-90s, even against quality offerings. His loose wrists and quick bat allow him to get the barrel to the ball on the inner half of the plate, despite some length in his swing.

OF - Jeren Kendall, Sr. Holmen (Wis.)
Kendall possesses all of the skills one would want in a center fielder, and profiles to play there for quite some time in the future. The premier position player in the Midwest this spring, the Vanderbilt commit covers ground in the outfield with ease and shows big-time arm strength. His lefthanded swing improved significantly throughout the summer as he began to incorporate of his lower half and implemented more aggressiveness in his approach. He shows elite, playable speed that plays very well on both sides of the ball, as he frequently turns in sub-4.0 second home to first times and swipes bases at will.

OF - Darius Day, Sr. Simeon Career Academy (Ill.)
A Perfect Game All-American last summer, Day shows exciting present tools that are only going to get stronger as he physically matures. Equipped with a strong arm, Day has displayed his excellent arm strength in games, throwing runners out at third base from deep right field. The strength of his left arm suggests right field at the next level, but he projects well as a center fielder with his 6.5 speed, athletic actions and solid defensive instincts. The Arizona Wildcat commit shows an aggressive approach in the box with quick hands and a short bat path, allowing him to generate surprising pop to his pull side with more to come.

OF - Jack Schaaf, Sr. Springboro (Ohio)
Schaaf is a an outfield prospect that popped up late in the summer. A sound all around athlete, the Florida International commit for baseball also excelled on the football field as Springboro’s starting quarterback. Schaaf is a strong runner – 6.5 60-yard dash times – whose speed can impact a game defensively, showing strong closing speed and sound defensive instincts. He is a lefthanded hitter with present gap power, a tool that will only increase as he starts to fill out his 6-foot-2 frame. He shows a short, quick swing and when the ball is squared up, it jumps off the barrel of his bat.

UT - Zack Shannon, Sr. Anderson (Ohio)
Zack Shannon is one of the premier two-way players in the 2014 class, joining Alex Verdugo from Arizona, with the ability to excel in any facet of the game. On the mound Shannon works with a mid-90s fastball with the ability to get downhill and mixes in a plus slider with sharp movement. His tools project best for right field where he shows plus arm strength with online throws and very strong carry. Shannon is a sound runner and should hit for plenty of power and average to stay in right field at the next level. His bat is loud and he consistently squares the ball up to all parts of the field.

P - Jake Godfrey, Sr. Providence Catholic (Ill.)
Godfrey gave scouts a taste of what they would be seeing from him all summer at the National Showcase, and steadily improved upon that performance in the months that followed. When he keeps his front side closed his stuff is as good as any pitcher, topping out at 94 mph with his fastball. The pitch shows excellent arm-side run and he commands it well, locating it well to his glove side. Godfrey’s curveball is one of the best off-speed pitches in the 2014 class showing severe depth with tight spin and the confidence to throw it in any count. Although not thrown often, his changeup is a solid third pitch as he maintains his arm speed and generates late fading action to his arm-side on the pitch.

P - Cameron Varga, Sr. Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (Ohio)
Varga finds himself near the head of a list of power-armed pitchers in the 2014 class after showing a consistent 93-95 mph fastball at the 2013 National Showcase. With a long, loose arm action, Varga attacks hitters with his fastball, showing late sinking life while mixing in a power 12-to-6 curveball which keeps hitters guessing. He has the ideal pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-4, 205-pounds, and when he uses his leverage and stays on top of his curveball it shows hard bite with very good depth.

P - Brandon Murray, Sr. Hobart (Ind.)
The arm strength with Murray is obvious as he consistently shows a mid-90s fastball, and similar to Varga, he has a strong frame with plenty of room to continue to add strength. He flashes feel for both a slider and curveball, with the slider being more advanced of the two presently, and also throws a mid-80s changeup down in the zone. Although his mechanics need some refinement, the South Carolina commit shows big strength and will only improve with more time spent on the mound.

P - Bryan Hoeing, Jr. Batesville (Ind.)
Hoeing hopes to follow in the footsteps of his cousin, Alex Meyer, a first round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2011, and he’s off to a good start. An elite athlete that is also a premium basketball prospect, everything Hoeing shows on the mound presently makes one think he will easily be a mid-90s pitcher by the time he graduates. Topping out at 91 mph with his fastball now, the pitch shows arm-side run with occasional sink and will only improve with increased incorporation of his lower half into his delivery. He controls his long limbs well for his age and shows an advanced feel on the mound. Hoeing is able to work downhill and hit his spots while mixing in both a curveball and changeup to keep hitters on their toes.

P - Noah Burkholder, Jr. Crown Point (Ind.)
Rounding out the staff is the ultra projectable, 6-foot-7, 190-pound Noah Burkholder, a University of Louisville commit. Usually when a rising senior (Keith Weisenberg) is throwing 95 mph on the mound in Jupiter that player walks away as the talk from the game, but this was not the case at last year's WWBA World Championship. Only a junior, Burkholder out-dueled Weisenberg, showing some impressive velocity of his own, topping out at 91 mph. With all of his intangibles it is easy to believe Burkholder will see a nice velocity bump in the near future. He uses his long levers well to generate downhill angle, seemingly handing the ball to the catcher. His athleticism is evident as he controls his long frame very well, which helps him to repeatedly fill up the lower quadrants of the strike zone. His slider shows tight spin in the low-80s and has a chance to become a plus pitch in the future.

As detailed above, there were plenty of options to choose from, from all states and classes, in the Midwest Region to round out the pitching staff. Seniors Jake Latz, Brad Bass and Micah Miniard, junior Ashe Russell, and even sophomores Anthony Holubecki, Drake Fellows and Christopher Machamer were all considered.

Midwest Region Top Tools

Best Hitter for Average: Evan Skoug, Sr. Libertyville (Ill.)
The 2013 WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. was Skoug's coming out party, bashing his way towards MVP honors. One defining moment for Skoug occurred when he sat back on an outer half 80 mph changeup and lined it to left field, registering 97 mph off the bat. His prowess with the bat has been well documented, and he also has the ability to create lift in swing, back spinning the ball over the fence.

Best Hitter for Power: Zack Shannon, Sr. Anderson (Ohio)
The scariest part about Shannon is his age – he doesn't turn 18 until mid-June – and how he would fit in with the 2015 class age-wise. He has a very muscular frame but maintains looseness throughout his swing, creating loud contact to all parts of the field. His power shows best to his pull side, but he also shows plus hand speed and the ability to drive to the opposite field gap.

Best Baserunner: Jeren Kendall, Sr. Holmen (Wis.)
Kendall’s speed impacts his game on both sides of the ball, but shines particularly well on the bases. With home to first base times usually less than four seconds, Kendall legs out infield singles regularly and often forces infielders into making a rushed throw. Upon getting on first, Kendall swipes bases with ease, turning a single or a walk into a triple within a few pitches.

Best Defensive Catcher: Simeon Lucas, Sr. Grant Community (Ill.)
Lucas has a very athletic build and it shows in his movements behind the plate, bouncing from one side to the other with quick footwork. He handled Dylan Cease and his quality repertoire with ease at the National Showcase, and squares his shoulders nicely on pitches in the dirt. Lucas also shows top of the line arm strength, keeping runners honest and thinking twice on attempted steals.

Best Defensive Infielder: Charlie Donovan, Jr. Westmont (Mich.)
Donovan would take this category based just off his defensive actions, without even factoring his plus arm strength across. He’s light on his feet with graceful, athletic actions, allowing him to show big range to either side. His hands are soft and sure, and by possessing a plus arm, Donovan is able to complete the play deep in the 5/6 hole with ease.

Best Defensive Outfielder: Jeren Kendall, Sr. Holmen (Wis.)
As noted above, Kendall is very quick on his feet, allowing him to close well on fly balls and cover ample ground in center field. His routes are direct to the ball with no wasted movements, and his plus arm strength keeps runners honest. Jack Schaaf was also in contention due to his excellent speed and athleticism.

Best Infield Arm: Brenden Spillane, Jr. Wheeling (Ill.)
A 2015 commit and primary third baseman, Spillane projects to stay at the hot corner where he shows impressive arm strength. Despite his sturdy 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, Spillane moves very well on his feet and delivers strikes to the intended target with plus carry. His throws are in the low-90s and he shows the ability to maintain his accuracy with multiple arm slots in game action.

Best Outfield Arm: Zack Shannon, Sr. Anderson (Ohio)
Shannon projects as a power hitting right fielder at the next level and shows plenty of arm strength to make runners think twice about taking an extra base. Up to 96 mph from the outfield at the National, Shannon is able to generate such velocity due to an easy and loose arm action. His throws also show plus carry along with accuracy throw after throw.

Best Fastball: Jake Godfrey, Sr. Providence Catholic (Ill.)
Godfrey steadily improved on the mound throughout the summer and showed bigger velocity each outing as well. When the 6-foot-3 Godfrey stays on top of the ball he is able to create tremendous downhill plane with his fastball and commands the pitch well throughout the zone. His velocity has steadily increased, topping at 94 mph in Jupiter last October, and is able to generate very good arm-side run on the pitch. While there are plenty of other hard throwers in the region, what sets Godfrey apart is his ability to effectively spot his fastball which sets up the rest of his repertoire.

Best Off-Speed Stuff: Zack Shannon, Sr. Anderson (Ohio)
Capturing the off-speed category in addition to the other two categories speaks to Shannon’s ability on the baseball diamond. His slider is one reason that scouts are split on where the Ohio State commit will spend the majority of his time at the next level. At present, his breaking ball is a plus pitch with tight spin and late depth and racks up a good amount of swings and misses.

Best Command: Jake Latz, Sr. Lemont Twp (Ill.)
Don’t think of Latz as a crafty, finesse lefthander who lacks velocity as Latz regularly sits in the upper-80s with his fastball, topping out at 91, and he projects for even more. He works downhill with his entire arsenal, spotting well to all quadrants of the strike zone. The curveball is his out pitch, showing big 1-to-7 break with depth and very good command, displaying the ability to backdoor the pitch to righthanded hitters. Latz remains balanced throughout his delivery and mixes in a low-80s changeup as well.

Best Pitchability: Ashe Russell, Jr. Cathedral (Ind.)
Although he's a junior, Russell shows advanced pitchability on the mound and a strong feel for three pitches. With a loose, quick arm, Russell pumps his fastball up to 92 mph with strong command and projects for more as his lean 6-foot-4 frame continues to fill out. The slider is a plus present pitch with late, sharp depth in the low-80s, and he also shows a nice feel for a low-80s sinking changeup. The Notre Dame commit will certainly be an interesting follow throughout the course of the next two years.

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