Scouting Reports: Illinois




2007 MLB Draft Illinois has one of its deepest high school pitching crops ever, starting with potential supplemental first-rounder Casey Crosby. The bad news is that the colleges offer next to nothing on the mound, and the position-player depth drops off quickly after third baseman Jake Smolinski, catcher Lars Davis and third baseman Ryan Anetsberger.

THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here


National Top 200 Prospects

1. Casey Crosby, lhp, Kaneland HS, Maple Park, Ill.
2. Cody Scarpetta, rhp, Guilford HS, Rockford, Ill.
3. Jake Smolinski, 3b, Boylan Catholic HS, Rockford, Ill.
4. Seth Blair, rhp, Rock Falls (Ill.) HS

Other Prospects Of Note

5. T.J. McFarland, lhp, Stagg HS, Palos Hills, Ill.
6. Lars Davis, c, Illinois
7. Brett Zawacki, rhp, LaSalle-Peru Township HS, LaSalle, Ill.
8. Ryan Anetsberger, 3b, Illinois State
9. Brett Summers, rhp, South Suburban (Ill.) JC (SIGNED: Cubs)
10. Eric Barrett, lhp, John A. Logan (Ill.) CC (SIGNED: Braves)
11. Lucas O'Rear, rhp, Nashville (Ill.) Community HS
12. Ryan Zink, rhp, Illinois-Chicago
13. Kyle Kaminska, rhp, Naperville (Ill.) Central HS
14. Kyle Ayers, rhp, Oswego (Ill.) HS
15. David Berres, of, South Suburban (Ill.) JC (SIGNED: Braves)
16. Aaron Barrett, rhp, Wabash Valley (Ill.) CC (CONTROL: Dodgers)
17. Cedric Redmond, rhp, Oakton (Ill.) CC (SIGNED: Cubs)
18. Nick Chmielewski, rhp, Carl Sandburg HS, Orland Park, Ill.
19. Mike Christl, rhp, Bradley
20. Jake Toohey, rhp, Illinois
21. Axel Gonzalez, of, Wabash Valley (Ill.) CC (SIGNED: Astros)
22. Ryan Eigsti, c, Bradley
23. John Flanagan, lhp, Belleville (Ill.) East HS
24. Erik Huber, 1b, Eastern Illinois
25. Jay Voss, lhp, Kaskaskia (Ill.) JC
26. Matt German, lhp, Northern Illinois (SIGNED: Phillies)
27. Michael Kaczmarek, rhp, Andrew HS, Tinley Park, Ill.
28. Mike Badgley, rhp, Northern Illinois (SIGNED: Marlins)
29. Ryan Curry, 2b/ss, Bradley
30. Todd Baumgartner, ss, Edwardsville (Ill.) HS
31. Tony Manville, rhp, Mount Carmel (Ill.) HS
32. Zach Peterson, rhp, Illinois-Chicago
33. Rafael Garcia, ss, Roberto Clemente HS, Chicago
34. Cameron McConnell, c, Deerfield (Ill.) HS
35. Nick Mitidiero, of, Triton (Ill.) JC
36. Grant Monroe, rhp, Schaumburg (Ill.) HS
37. Larry Gempp Jr., of, Illinois-Chicago
38. Kevin Koski, of, Southern Illinois
39. Matt Bolt, of, Illinois State
40. Jesse Sykora, 3b, Northern Illinois

Scouting Reports

1. Casey Crosby, lhp (National rank: 43)
School: Kaneland HS, Maple Park, Ill. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200. Birthdate: 9/17/88.
Scouting Report: Crosby is the obvious standout in a deep crop of Illinois high school pitching. That would have seemed unfathomable a year ago, when he was a 6-foot lefthander with a low-80s fastball and a torn meniscus from playing football. Then he started to grow and his fastball blossomed. Now Crosby is a 6-foot-5, 200-pounder with a low-90s heater that tops out at 93. He still has plenty of room to add strength to his frame, too. He impressed scouts last October by playing wide receiver on Friday night, taking the ACT test Saturday morning and then flying to Florida to light up radar guns at the World Wood Bat Championship. He finished the fall with 76 receptions for 1,150 yards and 19 touchdowns. Crosby still is more of a thrower than a pitcher, and his command and secondary pitches need refinement. He throws both a curveball and slider, and they show potential to be solid-average offerings. He may not be as polished as other top high school pitchers in this draft, but he's a hard-throwing lefthander with athleticism and competitive fire. That should get the Illinois recruit drafted in the sandwich round.

2. Cody Scarpetta, rhp (National rank: 120)
School: Guilford HS, Rockford, Ill. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 220. Birthdate: 8/25/88.
Scouting Report: Scarpetta's father Dan was a third-round pick by the Brewers out of an Illinois high school in June 1982, and Cody could match him if a late injury doesn't hurt his stock too much. Scarpetta tore the flexor tendon in his right index finger while pitching in late April, an injury similar to the one that has sidelined the Tigers' Joel Zumaya (who tore the same tendon in his middle finger). Scarpetta had surgery in mid-May and will be out until at least July. A team that takes him with plans to evaluate him this summer may not see him at full strength before the Aug. 15 signing deadline. Scarpetta, 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, worked hard to get in the best shape of his life during the offseason, and his efforts paid off. Before he got hurt, he showed a plus fastball every time out this spring, usually sitting around 92-94 mph. In addition to increasing his velocity, he also turned his breaking ball into a true power curveball and added a changeup. One scout compared him to John Wetteland, though Scarpetta has enough stuff to stick in a rotation. If he doesn't sign, he'll attend Creighton.

3. Jake Smolinski, 3b (National rank: 160)
School: Boylan Catholic HS, Rockford, Ill. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Birthdate: 2/9/89.
Scouting Report: A number of third basemen made strong impressions at the Area Code Games last summer. Californians Josh Vitters and Matt Dominguez should be first-round picks in June, while Iowan Jon Gilmore should go in the second or third round. Smolinski also has maintained his status as the best position-player prospect in Illinois. He stands out most for his feel for hitting and for the strength in his 6-foot, 195-pound build. He's also a good athlete--he doubles as Boylan Catholic's quarterback and finished 14th in SPARQ testing at the Area Codes--and has good arm strength. While scouts agree that he'll be a star at Clemson if he attends college, they aren't as sold on his pro future. Some believe he's maxed out physically already and will become a below-average runner as he fills out, limiting his defensive options. Currently a shortstop, Smolinski will have to move to third base or an outfield corner. Some clubs are intrigued with the idea of making him a catcher, where his arm and leadership skills would work to his advantage. His signability is uncertain, so he may not be drafted as high as his talent would warrant.

4. Seth Blair, rhp (National rank: 188)
School: Rock Falls (Ill.) HS. Class: Sr.
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Birthdate: 3/3/89.
Scouting Report: Blair generated a lot of buzz when he hit 95 mph in his first outing of the spring. He hasn't matched that velocity since, but scouts have stayed on his trail because he has touched 92 on a few occasions since. He's not exceedingly big at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, but Blair generates his velocity with arm speed. He throws from a low three-quarters angle, which gives his heater sinking and boring action. Because of his size and lack of polished command and secondary pitches, Blair projects more as a reliever than as a starter at this point. That will affect him in the draft, as will his uncertain signability. He has committed to Arizona State and rumors on the scouting trail tied him to Scott Boras, though Blair's father Al says he will be his son's adviser.

McFarland Makes Push In May

T.J. McFarland has surged late in the spring. A 6-foot-3, 190-pound lefthander, he started touching 90 mph regularly with his fastball in April, and figured to be a fifth- to seventh-round pick. In his last two starts, he sat at 91-92 mph and touched 93. He could go as high as the second or third round and now figures to be signable despite a commitment to the Missouri. That's a far cry from where McFarland stood last spring, when he had a sore elbow and the initial diagnosis was that he'd need Tommy John surgery. A second opinion resulted in a diagnosis of tendinitis and he avoided surgery. McFarland’s delivery is a little awkward, but he also has a curveball he can throw for strikes.

For the second time in three years, Illinois has a Canadian catcher who will go early in the draft. The Tigers made Chris Robinson a third-round pick in 2005, and Lars Davis could go nearly as high two years later. He who won Big 10 Conference player of the year honors after leading the league with 13 homers and ranking second with a .400 average. He bats lefthanded, stands 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds and is a better athlete than most catchers. He was a standout volleyball player in high school. Davis has been catching for only 2 1/2 years, as he was a part-time backstop as a freshman at Lethbridge (Alberta) Community College. His defensive skills are adequate, and he has drawn comparisons to Mike Jacobs, an offensive-minded catcher who eventually became a full-time first baseman.

Righthander Brett Zawacki missed the 2006 baseball season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee playing basketball, but he announced he was back in a big way by touching 94 mph at a showcase in October. He has thrown in the low 90s with good sink this spring, though scouts aren't as enamored of his arm action and curveball. Zawacki backed out of an initial commitment to Illinois State, choosing instead to accept an oral offer (but no official scholarship) from Arizona State.

When Ryan Anetsberger arrived at Illinois State, he was a wiry shortstop with a good glove and a questionable bat. Now he's a strong 6-foot-1, 210-pound third baseman. He has gap power and uses the whole field at the plate, and he has a solid arm and defensive skills at the hot corner. He has helped his cause with strong summer performances, winning the MVP award at the 2005 National Baseball Congress World Series and holding his own in the Cape Cod League last year. Anetsberger missed time this spring when a bad hop broke his nose and initially came back as a DH/outfielder, but he returned to third base by the end of the season.

The Cubs signed a pair of projectable righthanders as draft-and-follows out of Illinois junior colleges. Brett Summers (28th round in 2006) showed the best arm among Midwest pitchers at the 2004 Area Code Games but has been inconsistent since. He briefly attended Virginia before winding up at South Suburban Junior College, where he was inconsistent but showed an 88-92 mph sinker and an average curveball. He still has projection remaining at 6-foot-6 and 209 pounds. Cedric Redmond (27th) also lacked consistency but finished strong. He's 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds and touched as high as 95 mph with his fastball.

The Braves also landed a pair of Illinois draft-and-follows. Eric Barrett (31st round in 2006) is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound lefthander who pitched in the high 80s and touched 93 mph this spring after his fastball had dipped into the low to mid-80s when he was a freshman last year. Outfielder David Berres' (30th) best tool is his speed.

Multisport Star Has Huge Upside

Six-foot-6, 240-pound Lucas O'Rear signed a basketball scholarship with Northern Iowa as a forward and had college football offers as a tight end. He's also a promising righthander whose senior season was truncated when he tweaked a knee while trying to play catcher. Though he's raw because he has spent little time focusing on baseball, O'Rear is a big athlete who showed an 89-92 mph fastball this spring without the benefit of a throwing program over the winter. His velocity drops into the mid-80s after an inning or two and his breaking ball is rudimentary, but his upside is apparent. He's probably won't give up college basketball, though a club could try to sign him to a two-sport deal.

Righthander Ryan Zink saved his best for last, one-hitting Long Beach State for eight innings in an NCAA regional upset. He would have been an early-round pick in 2006 had he not had Tommy John surgery in March. Like most pitchers coming back from elbow reconstruction, he struggled with his feel for pitching in his first year back. Zink never stopped competing, however, even when his fastball sat in the low to mid-80s, and won seven games to bring his total to 24 in three seasons. His sinker touched 91 mph by the end of the year, and his slider also improved. Against the Dirtbags, he showed command of three pitches. He has added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame but would be better served by getting back to his previous weight of 210.

Kyle Kaminska, Kyle Ayers and Nick Chmielewski are three high school righthanders who could go in the first 10-15 rounds if they're deemed signable. Kaminska has the most projectable body of the trio at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, along with a clean arm action and the ability to throw three pitches for strikes. He occasionally reaches 90-91 mph with his fastball. Ayers has a stronger 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame and more raw arm strength. Chmielewski has some effort in his delivery, but threw three scoreless innings at the 2006 Area Code Games and has topped out at 93 mph. He has improved his command this spring. Kaminska (Michigan State) and Chmielewski (Illinois) may be tough to lure away from four-year schools, but Ayers could be lured away from Parkland (Ill.) Community College.

Aaron Barrett is the state's best juco prospect who hasn't signed as a draft-and-follow. A 44th-round pick by the Dodgers in 2006, he's a 6-foot-4, 190-pound righthander with a good slider and an 88-91 mph fastball. He has committed to Evansville, where his older brother Ryan was a senior infielder this spring.

Righthander Mike Christl entered the year as the state's best college prospect, only to see his velocity disappear for most of the season's first half. After pitching at 88-92 mph and touching 94 in 2006, when the Red Sox took him in the 22nd round, he worked in the low to mid-80s for the first half of his senior season. Scouts say that's because he flies open on the front side of his delivery, putting stress on his shoulder that led to a bout with tendinitis in 2006. Christl's changeup and slider are good complementary pitches and his command has improved, but he's viewed as a long-term health risk.

Righthander Jake Toohey set a Northwoods League record with 24 saves (in a 67-game season) while helping Rochester win the league title last summer. A fifth-year senior, he missed the first month of the season following arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, and all of 2004 following Tommy John surgery. Toohey's medical record concerns scouts, but they like his competitiveness and his slider, which chews up wood bats. He also has an 89-91 mph fastball.

Righthander Grant Monroe is the son of White Sox director of major league scouting Larry Monroe, was was the eighth overall pick in the June 1974 draft and pitched briefly in the majors. Grant, who missed much of his junior season after injuring his shoulder in the state basketball playoffs, is a 6-foot-4, 205-pounder with a high-80s fastball and a feel for three pitches. He isn't expect to sign because he has a scholarship from Duke.