For the third straight year, pitching again dominates the Illinois scene.
Righthander Michael Bowden should be the state's highest-drafted player
since Kris Honel went in the first round to the White Sox in 2001. Catcher
Chris Robinson has lived up to his billing and should go by the fifth
round, but it could be another five or 10 rounds before the next position
player is selected. (National ranking in parentheses)
4. Tyler Norrick, lhp, Southern Illinois U.
5. P.J. Finigan, rhp/ss, Southern Illinois U.
6. Brad Stone, rhp, Quincy U.
7. Chris Kovacevich, lhp, Lincoln-Way East HS, Frankfort
8. Brandon Magee, rhp, Bradley U.
9. Cory Lapinski, lhp/of, Illinois Wesleyan U.
10. Josh Flores, ss, Triton JC (CONTROL: Braves)
11. Kevin Hoef, ss, Triad HS, Troy
12. Dan Brauer, lhp, Northwestern U.
13. Jim Conroy, rhp, U. of Illinois
14. Larry Gempp, of, U. of Illinois-Chicago
15. Grant Gerrard, of, Southern Illinois U.
16. David Cales, ss/rhp, Mount Carmel HS, Chicago
17. Drew Davidson, of, U. of Illinois
18. Dusty Bensko, 1b, U. of Illinois
19. Brian Spielmann, rhp, Bradley U.
20. Tim Dennehy, lhp, Oak Park and River Forest HS, Oak Park
21. Brad Canada, 1b/c, Bradley U.
22. Collin Walker, rhp, Bradley U.
23. Cody Adams, rhp, Sherrard HS
24. Pat Kohorst, rhp, Western Illinois U.
25. Bobby Stevens, ss, Guerin College Prep, Chicago
26. Corey Lewis, rhp, Rend Lake JC
27. Eric Barrett, lhp, Marion HS
28. Steve Smith, lhp, Wabash Valley CC
29. Brandon Gale, rhp, Illinois State U.
30. Adam Tobler, rhp, Parkland CC
1. MICHAEL BOWDEN, rhp (National rank: 38) School: Waubonsie Valley HS.
Hometown: Aurora, Ill.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: Sept. 9, 1986.
College Commitment: Arizona State.
Scouting Report: Bowden was making a salary drive a month before the draft, throwing a seven-inning perfect game with 19 strikeouts in front of a slew of scouts. After allowing a three-run homer in his first start of the season, he has surrendered just one earned run since while establishing himself as a solid supplemental first-round pick. Bowden showed consistently good stuff all spring, pitching at 90-92 mph every time out and backing up his fastball with a plus curveball. He also has an advanced changeup for a high school pitcher and a strong frame. Bowden's delivery is a little unorthodox, but he repeats it well and throws strikes. He'll have to refine his location at the next level and should be able to do so. He's a quality athlete—one scouting director clocked him in 4.2 seconds from the right side of the plate to first base—and scouts rave about his makeup.
2. MIKE BROADWAY, rhp (National rank: 163) School: Pope County HS.
Hometown: Golconda, Ill.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: March 30, 1987.
College Commitment: Chipola (Fla.) JC.
Scouting Report: Broadway showed more velocity than Michael Bowden early in the spring, pitching at 92-94 before dipping to 89-90 later in the season, and probably will have more in the future. He easily could add another 40 pounds to his frame, and one scout says he could see Broadway throwing 97 mph one day. Broadway probably will go three rounds or so behind Bowden in the draft, however, because he's less polished. His breaking ball is well-below-average and lacks consistency because his arm slot wanders. He also lacks deception. Scouts love his projectable body, athleticism and arm action, so he won't get past the fourth or fifth round. His high school competition isn't strong, but he proved himself by performing well at last summer's Area Code Games.
3. CHRIS ROBINSON, c (National rank: 185) School: Illinois.
Hometown: Dorchester, Ontario.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: May 12, 1984.
Previously Drafted: Mets 2002 (30).
Scouting Report: The top all-around catcher in the Cape Cod League last summer, Robinson was slowed this spring when he was hit on the hand by a pitch. The injury knocked him out for two weeks and affected him at the plate afterward, but he hit the ball with authority down the stretch. He doesn't possess overwhelming tools as a hitter, but his approach and plate discipline should allow him to hit for a decent average with fringe average power. He drives the ball well to the opposite field, and may become more dangerous if he pulls the ball more often. His plus arm is his best tool, and he was leading Big 10 Conference catchers in catching basestealers (43 percent) and pickoffs (seven). His receiving skills are average, and he runs fine for a catcher. Despite his solid package of tools, some scouts think his makeup stands out more than anything. His leadership helped Illinois win its first Big 10 regular-season title since 1998. A mainstay on Canadian national teams, Robinson will benefit from a new visa law that should allow him to begin his pro career immediately. Foreign citizens drafted in 2004 had to wait until this year to get a work visa.
OTHERS TO WATCH
(Numbers in parentheses indicate rank in Illinois)
In a repeat of 2004, Southern Illinois has had a lefty move from its bullpen to its rotation and into the early rounds of the draft. Following in the footsteps of Eric Haberer, a third-round pick of the Cardinals last June, Tyler Norrick (4) could go as high as the fifth round. Unlike Haberer, his stuff didn't hold up as well when he started, so Norrick projects as a pro reliever. In short stints and early in starts, he'll throw 90-92 mph and command his fastball to both sides of the plate. His slider tops out at 78 mph and lacks true two-plane break. He has a good pitcher's body (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and the aptitude to tweak his breaking ball and command.
Norrick's teammate, RHP/SS P.J. Finigan (5), was the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year. He reminds some Midwest scouts of former Southwest Missouri State two-way star Shaun Marcum, who has developed rapidly after focusing on pitching with the Blue Jays. Though he's one of the region's top defensive shortstops and leads the Salukis with a .388 average, his future almost certainly lies on the mound. A four-year starter at shortstop, he totaled just 53 innings in his first three years of college before serving as a Saturday starter this year. He has a solid repertoire, with an 87-92 mph fastball, a solid slider and a changeup that might be his best pitch. Like Marcum, he could blossom once he gives up the rigors of playing shortstop.
Illinois' small colleges usually produce a couple of interesting prospects, and this year is no exception. Despite gaining exposure as a Central Illinois Collegiate League all-star last summer, Quincy RHP Brad Stone (6) flew under the radar for awhile this spring because most clubs didn't realize he was draft-eligible as a sophomore. He's a projectable 6-foot-3, 175-pounder with a good delivery and three pitches, highlighted by a 90-93 mph fastball. Pitching in the wood-bat Great Lakes Valley Conference, he allowed just one homer in 78 innings.
Illinois Wesleyan LHP/OF Cory Lapinski (9) topped the Titans with 12 homers and all of NCAA Division III with 16.0 strikeouts per nine innings. He fanned 18 in his final start of the season, a 1-0, two-hit loss against Wartburg (Iowa). Lapinski does it mostly with arm strength, running his lively fastball into the low 90s. His breaking ball has its moments but is inconsistent. He could be a tough sign because he has a substantial scholarship.
LHP Chris Kovacevich (7) could go as high as the eighth to 10th round if clubs thought he was signable. He's a 6-foot-5 southpaw with an 85-89 mph fastball, a promising breaking ball and a good changeup. He could emerge as a premium pick after three years at Coastal Carolina.
Bradley's entire weekend rotation should get drafted. RHP Brandon Magee (8) has the highest ERA of the trio at 4.43, but should be the first Brave picked. At 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, his body reminds scouts of Matt Clement's. Magee has some effort to his delivery, which produces an 87-93 mph fastball with a lot of movement. He'll also flash good sliders, curveballs and changeups. RHP Collin Walker (22) has the staff's best ERA at 2.70, but he won't be the early-round pick he was on track to becoming as a freshman. At 6-foot-7 he looked like a budding Kris Benson, but he hurt his shoulder as a sophomore and hasn't been the same since. His fastball is down in the mid-80s and he relies too much on his curveball. RHP Brian Spielmann (19) is a senior sign with an 89-91 mph fastball and a hard slider.
Speaking of senior signs, the University of Illinois has three good ones. RHP Jim Conroy (13) was a 25th-round pick by the Athletics last year, but elbow problems shut him down for the summer. He hasn't missed a start this spring, showing an 88-92 mph fastball and a plus changeup. 1B Dusty Bensko (18) and OF Drew Davidson (17) rank 1-2 in the Big 10 Conference home run race with 16 and 14 after struggling a year ago. Davidson, the Big 10 player of the year, offers an array of tools, including bat speed, gap power, average speed and center-field instincts. A 46th-round pick by the Cardinals in 2004 despite hitting .259, he's already 23. Bensko has bounced back after playing his way out of the Illini lineup last year. Besides power, he also has a strong arm, but his lack of speed limits him to first base or maybe left field.
SS Josh Flores (10) was the top position player in the state last year, and scouts are still incredulous that he turned down a six-figure offer from the Braves, who took him in the 24th round. Atlanta still controls his rights because he wound up at Triton Junior College, where he ranks among the national juco leaders in hitting (.519) and steals (28). Flores has top-of-the-line speed, going from the right side of home plate to first base in 3.9 seconds, and has strength in his bat and his arm. However, he cheats on fastballs and doesn't adjust to breaking pitches, and he's not a long-term shortstop. He probably fits best in center field.
Illinois' best prep position players are SS Kevin Hoef (11) and SS/RHP David Cales (16), both of whom are more suited for college at this point. Hoef, who may punt for Iowa's football team, is a 6-foot-3 athlete with the makings of all five tools. Some scouts question how much he'll hit. Cales could be a two-way player at Missouri but will be an infielder as a pro. He has a nice swing and a strong arm, though he doesn’t run well enough to stay at shortstop.
LHP Dan Brauer (12) could have been an early-round pick after tying for the Cape Cod League in wins (six) and second place in strikeouts (65 in 47 innings) last summer. But he has missed all of 2005 after offseason surgery, and his draft status may hinge on whether teams think they'll get a chance to evaluate him on the mound this summer. Brauer succeeds by locating all four of his pitches--an 85-88 mph fastball, a curveball, slider and changeup--to both sides of the plate and keeping the ball down.