|THIS YEAR’S CROP|
|*****||One for the books|
|***||Solid, not spectacular|
|**||Not up to par|
|*||Nothing to see here|
Pitchers have dominated Illinois follow lists for the last four years, and that’s the case again this year. Just as in 2005, a pair of high school righthanders (this time Zach McAllister and Wade Kapteyn) top our ratings. The prep ranks offer a balance of hitters and pitchers as well as some much-needed depth, picking up the slack for a mediocre college class that’s especially poor in terms of position players.
|National Top 200 Prospects
1. Zach McAllister, rhp, Illinois Valley Central HS, Chillicothe
2. Wade Kapteyn, rhp, Illiana Christian HS, Lansing
3. George Kontos, rhp, Northwestern
4. Brandon Magee, rhp, Bradley
5. Joe Benson, of, Joliet Catholic HS, Joliet
|Other Players Of Note
6. Dan Brauer, lhp, Northwestern
7. Andrew Doyle, rhp, Alleman Catholic HS, Rock Island
8. Luke Stewart, 3b, Normal West HS, Normal
9. Connor Powers, 3b/1b, Benet Academy, Lyle
10. Tyler Norrick, lhp, Southern Illinois
11. David Arnold, rhp, Lincoln Trail CC
12. Grant Gerrard, of, Southern Illinois
13. Brad Stone, rhp, Quincy
14. Billy Boockford, rhp, Glenbard West, Glen Ellyn
15. Casey Erickson, rhp, Springfield JC
16. Mike Christl, rhp, Bradley
17. Tyler Ladendorf, ss, Maine West HS, Des Plaines
18. Chris Johnson, rhp, John A. Logan CC (CONTROL: Dodgers)
19. Kitt Kopach, rhp, Illinois State
20. Brad Altbach, rhp, Glenbrook North HS, Northbrook
21. Lee Fischer, ss, South Suburban JC
22. Jamaal Hollis, rhp/of, Whitney Young HS, Chicago
23. Cody Gilbert, of, Lincoln Trail JC (SIGNED: Cubs)
24. Mike Pericht, c/1b, Providence Catholic HS, Orland Park
25. Brett Summers, rhp, South Suburban JC
26. Bart Babineaux, of, Illinois-Chicago
27. Brian Dinkelman, ss, McKendree
28. Kyle Jones, rhp, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville
29. Cedric Redmond, rhp, Joliet Township HS, Joliet
30. Kevin Koski, of, Southern Illinois
31. Scott Simon, 1b, Northern Illinois
32. Jason Goebbert, of, Hampshire HS
33. Cody Dunbar, rhp, John A. Logan CC
34. Matt Brewer, rhp, Southern Illinois
35. Dan Frega, rhp, Illinois State
1. Zach McAllister, rhp (National rank: 87)
School: Illinois Valley Central HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Chillicothe, Ill.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Birthdate: 12/8/87.
Scouting Report: McAllister’s father Steve is the Central crosschecker for the Diamondbacks, and it’s obvious Zach has soaked up some quality instruction. Though his body has added six inches and 60 pounds in the last two years, he has maintained a solid delivery. He can consistently throw a breaking ball for strikes and has good feel for a changeup, uncommon traits in a high school pitcher. McAlister started slowly after leading Illinois Valley Central to a runner-up finish in the state Class A basketball playoffs, but his fastball has climbed from 88-89 mph to 90-92 this spring. His slider could use more velocity, and that should come with time. Though McAllister has a thick lower half, he’s a good athlete with a loose, quick arm. If he attends Nebraska, he’ll get the chance to hit because he generates good leverage and power with his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame. But it’s more likely that he’ll sign as a third- to fifth-rounder.
2. Wade Kapteyn, rhp(National rank: 88)
School: Illiana Christian HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Lansing, Ill.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 225. Birthdate: 7/11/87.
Scouting Report: Kapteyn is the type of pitcher who could blossom into a first-rounder if he spends a few years improving in college, but he’s good enough now that a club probably will sign him somewhere between the third and fifth rounds. He has explosive sink on his 89-93 mph fastball, and it could become a pitch with plus-plus velocity and plus-plus life. His secondary pitches aren’t as refined as Zach McAllister’s, but Kapteyn has made progress with his 80-82 mph slider and his changeup. If he doesn’t turn pro and attends Evansville instead, he’ll be draft-eligible again as a sophomore in 2008. McAllister’s brother Braden, a shortstop at Illiana Christian, is one of the better sophomores in Illinois.
3. George Kontos, rhp(National rank: 132)
School: Northwestern. Class: So.
Hometown: Lincolnwood, Ill.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Birthdate: 6/12/85.
Scouting Report: Kontos has frustrated area scouts more than any pitcher in the Midwest this spring. After starring in the Cape Cod League last summer, he was 2-10, 5.42, leaving him one off the NCAA Division I lead for losses despite pitching for a Northwestern team that finished second in the Big 10 Conference. Kontos has a higher ceiling than any prospect in Illinois, but he just hasn’t performed. At his best, Kontos has a pair of plus pitches in a 90-94 mph fastball and an 84-87 mph slider. He has a strong 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame and his arm works well. But he doesn’t have an effective offspeed pitch and he doesn’t repeat his delivery well. As a result, he can’t locate his fastball and slider with much precision, so he gives up more hits and walks than someone with his stuff should. Despite his disappointing performance, he still could go as early as the fourth round. He may flourish more as a pro, pitching against wood bats and coming out of the bullpen.
4. Brandon Magee, rhp(National rank: 143)
School: Bradley. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Sheboygan, Wis.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 7/23/83.
Scouting Report: One of the more attractive senior signs in the 2006 draft, Magee could have gone in the eighth to 12th round a year ago if scouts had had a better feel for his signability. The extra year has helped him. He has gotten stronger and his stuff has improved. His fastball is up a tick to 89-94 mph with good life down in the zone and his slider is up to 81-84 mph with increased bite. He’s commanding his pitches better as well. Magee also employs a changeup, and on his best days all three of his pitches will be average or better. He’s just five strikeouts short of Bradley’s career record of 262, which has stood since 1957. Magee’s long, lean 6-foot-5, 190-pound frame continues to draw comparisons to Matt Clement’s, though scouts don’t care for his maximum-effort delivery. He’s one of the oldest players in the draft, as he’ll turn 23 in late July. A team looking for a senior discount without sacrificing much in the way of talent could take him as early as the fourth or fifth round.
5. Joe Benson, of(National rank: 183)
School: Joliet Catholic HS. Class: Sr.
Hometown: Joliet, Ill.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 3/5/88.
Scouting Report: The top position-player prospect in Illinois, Benson could have pursued college football had he so desired. He rushed for 2,183 yards (12.4 per carry) and scored 202 points last fall, concluding his high school gridiron career with 363 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the second round of the state 6-A playoffs. But Benson has decided to focus on baseball, where his combination of speed and power make him enticing. In a mid-May workout, he hit 11 of 20 pitches out of the park using a wood bat and ran from the right side of the plate to first base in 4.1 seconds. He also showed decent arm strength from center field, his projected position in college or pro ball after catching in high school. He lacks the arm to play behind the plate at higher levels. A solid 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, Benson also earns high marks for his gamer makeup and ability to make adjustments at the plate. He can get too aggressive at times, almost jumping out of his shoes to hit and chasing breaking balls, though at other times he’ll display a more disciplined approach. His swing also has some effort to it. Benson reportedly wants top-five-round money to forgo playing at Purdue, and he may not go quite that high in the draft.
State’s Top Talent Could Look Better In Three Years
A torn labrum is usually the kiss of death for a pitcher, but lefthander Dan Brauer has made a miraculous recovery. After tying for the Cape Cod League in wins and ranking second in strikeouts in 2004, he was set to be an early-round pick last year. But his shoulder started bothering him at the end of that summer and he had surgery that kept him out for all of last season. Brauer had no trouble coming back this spring, and his stuff is all the way back. He was the Big 10 Conference pitcher of the year and threw a no-hitter against Michigan State. His fastball velocity has increased slightly to 86-90 mph, and the pitch still has good sink and deception. His curveball is still effective, and he regained his feel for his changeup, though he needs to use it more often. And he continues to work both sides of the plate and keep the ball down. Brauer doesn’t have the physical talent of his Northwestern teammate George Kontos, but he could slide ahead of him in the draft to a team that values consistency and results over raw potential. Brauer also has a better chance than Kontos to remain a starter in the long term.
Scouts put righthander Andrew Doyle in the same class as Zach McAllister and Wade Kapteyn, but they’ll have to wait three years to get him because he’s strongly committed to Oklahoma. His stuff isn’t quite as good as McAllister’s and Kapteyn’s, but it could be down the road. Doyle is projectable at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds and just needs refinement. He achieves nice run and sink on an 89-90 mph fastball that tops out at 92, and he spins a hard breaking ball. He may need to raise his arm angle from its present low three-quarters slot to achieve more consistency.
The son of former Illinois State head coach and current Padres area scout Jeff Stewart, third baseman Luke Stewart is another physically impressive high schooler ticketed for college. Stewart wants second- or third-round money to pass up attending Georgia, and he won’t get it in this draft. He could in three years, however, because he’s a 6-foot-4, 190-pounder with a pretty lefthanded swing. He already has some backspin power, and he’ll hit more homers as he matures physically. His arm is average and his hands are decent at third base, though scouts wonder if he’ll have to shift to first base down the road.
Third baseman Connor Powers fell off the radar for a lot of scouts and recruiters when he had shoulder problems in 2005, but he’s healthy and drawing a lot more attention of late. Recently committed to Mississippi State, Power is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and a good athlete for his size. Though he has a hitch in his swing, he uses it to load his hands, and he’s a sound hitter with an advanced approach. His bat speed is just average, but he has opposite-field power and is learning to pull the ball. An average runner with a decent arm, he may not have the footwork required to stay at third base. The New York Giants drafted his father John, a guard from Michigan, in the eighth round of the 1981 NFL draft.
Lefthander Tyler Norrick remains an enigma. He was the top college pitching prospect in the state last year and could have gone in the fifth or sixth round had he not spooked scouts about his signability. The Blue Jays took him in the 17th round and offered him the $150,000 they thought he wanted, only to have him turn it down. He missed a month with shoulder inflammation this spring and got so down on himself that he announced he would retire from baseball at the end of the season. He since has changed his mind, but scouts aren’t sure what to make of him. At his best he’ll show a lively 88-93 mph fastball and a good slider, and he could make a nifty lefty reliever. He rushes his delivery, putting stress on his shoulder and hurting his command. Norrick could be a bargain as a senior sign–if he has the desire to succeed in pro ball.
Righthander David Arnold came out of nowhere to show a 90-93 mph fastball and a plus curveball early in the spring. His stuff was more average than plus when scouts came to evaluate him, but he still could go in the sixth to eighth round to a team that saw him throw well. A stocky 6-foot-2, he projects as a pro reliever. He needs to add life to his fastball and keep it down in the zone more often. If he doesn’t sign, he’ll attend Illinois-Chicago.
Outfielder Grant Gerrard is the state’s only college position player generating much interest, and scouts are divided on his value. Those who like him appreciate his pro body (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), athleticism and short, quick lefthanded swing. He has raw power, a patient approach, slightly above-average speed and a solid arm. But despite all his tools, there’s some question as to whether he’ll have the home run power teams want in a right fielder. Gerrard, who began his college career at Washington, might have signed last year if a broken wrist hadn’t damaged his draft stock. The Mariners selected him in the 16th round anyway, and he’ll go higher in 2006 as a senior sign.
A 31st-round pick of the Astros as a draft-eligible sophomore a year ago, righthander Brad Stone opened 2006 with a no-hitter against Lincoln (Ill.) Junior College. He has a lean 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame that generates 90-91 mph fastball. He can dial his fastball up to 93, though it could use more life and command. He also has a hard breaking ball that has improved but still rates as fringy. Whoever drafts Stone probably will send him to the bullpen and hope he can get by with velocity.
Notre Dame recruit Billy Boockford reminds Fighting Irish coaches of their current two-sport star Jeff Samardzija, who has the talent to go in the top two rounds of both the baseball and football drafts. Like Samardzija, Boockford has a lean, athletic frame (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) and is just beginning to reach his potential on the mound. Boockford won’t play football at Notre Dame but starred at Glenbard West as a quarterback, a guard in basketball and as both a righthander and outfielder in baseball. Scouts prefer him as a pitcher because he already sits at 87-89 mph and pushes 91 with his fastball, but they also like his pop and competitiveness as an everyday player. Considered unsignable, he should develop into a good pick in the 2009 draft.
Righthander Casey Erickson’s stock is on the rise again. The nephew of former big league pitcher Roger Erickson, he emerged as Illinois’ top high school pitcher in 2004 but dropped off the map last year when he rarely exceeded the mid-80s with his fastball. Erickson got scouts back in his corner when he touched 93-94 mph on an early-season trip to Arizona, and he has pitched at 87-91 mph for much of the spring. His curveball and changeup are solid secondary pitches, and he throws strikes despite a long arm action. He could go as high as the 10th round.
Righthander Mike Christl helped his cause by flashing a 93-94 mph fastball during the fall, but his draft status is cloudy. He’s a 6-foot-4, 185-pounder with a feel for three pitches, but he flies open in his delivery and puts stress on his shoulder, which led to him missing a month with shoulder tendinitis this spring. Christl mostly pitched at 87-91 mph, and he still has work to do with his curveball and changeup.
Shortstop Tyler Ladendorf generated buzz as a football and baseball star in his first two years at Maine West. But he tore a labrum diving back into a base during the state playoffs in 2004, and reinjured it that fall. When he had surgery, doctors discovered that his labrum had disintegrated. Ladendorf didn’t play in 2005, but his all-around athleticism has been back on display this spring. His swing, strength and speed are all pro-caliber, and he even has some arm strength (albeit with restricted range of motion). Ladendorf should hit enough if he can stay at shortstop, but scouts aren’t sure how well his bat will play if he has to move to a less demanding defensive position. The team that selects Ladendorf likely will try to answer that question by letting him go to Howard (Texas) Junior College as a draft-and-follow.
At the Area Code Games two years ago, righthander Brett Summers had the best arm among Midwest pitchers–better than Michael Bowden, a Red Sox supplemental first-round pick in 2005. Summers also entered last year with high draft hopes, but a disappointing spring and a commitment to Virginia caused him to slide to the 36th round, where the Yankees took him. Summers wound up at South Suburban Junior College, though his brief stay at Virginia cost the Yankees his draft rights. He didn’t have a good spring and pitched at 85-88 mph, but he’ll get drafted on the basis of his body (6-foot-6, 185 pounds) and past velocity (90-93 mph).
Two small-school players in Illinois have put up stunning numbers. McKendree shortstop Brian Dinkelman broke former big leaguer Randy Velarde’s NAIA career records for hits (373) and assists (679) and set new standards for runs (303), doubles (96) and total bases (670). The NAIA player of the year, he hit .462-17-65 and led the NAIA with 82 runs, 34 doubles and an .899 slugging percentage. Dinkelman should be a mid-round draft pick because he’s a strong lefthanded hitter with decent tools. He’s a little stiff and lacks the footwork to play shortstop, so he’ll have to move to second base or the outfield, leading to increased expectations with his bat. Southern Illinois-Edwardsville righthander Kyle Jones no-hit Northern Kentucky in his second start of the spring, part of an NCAA Division II-record 54 1/3-inning scoreless streak that featured six straight 1-0 victories. Jones, who went 11-1 with a Division II-best 0.85 ERA, isn’t as much of a prospect, though. He’s 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds but projects as a finesse righthander with an 84-87 mph sinker and a sweeping slider. He’s a strike-throwing maching who benefited from pitching in a wood-bat conference.
Illinois-Chicago righthander Ryan Zink would have challenged to become the state’s first college pitcher drafted had he not needed Tommy John surgery in March. His 6-foot-5, 210 pounds frame, low-90s sinker and potential plus slider all were attractive to pro clubs.