State Report: Illinois




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Eastern Illinois dominated the Ohio Valley Conference regular season, but stumbled in the conference tournament and got left out of NCAA regional play. The Panthers will show their strength in the draft with two of the best prospects in Illinois, including lefthander Tyler Kehrer, who should go in the first five rounds, and outfielder Brett Nommensen, the state's top position player. Pitchers are more prevalent than hitters in Illinois this spring.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Tyler Kehrer, lhp, Eastern Illinois (National Rank: 104)
2. Tanner Bushue, rhp, South Central HS, Farina (National Rank: 140)
3. Ian Krol, lhp, Neuqua Valley, HS, Naperville (National Rank: 184)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

4. Brett Nommensen, of, Eastern Illinois
5. Danny Sheppard, c, Downers Grove North HS
6. Rob Scahill, rhp, Bradley
7. Scott Firth, rhp, Stevenson HS, Lincolnshire
8. Brandon Wikoff, ss, Illinois
9. Danny Jimenez, lhp, Logan CC
10. Dane Opel, of, Edwardsville HS
11. Mike Giovenco, rhp, North Park
12. Bryant George, rhp, Southern Illinois
13. James Jones, rhp, Logan CC
14. Jerad Grundy, lhp, Johnsburg HS
15. Jake Goebbert, of, Northwestern
16. Justin Ringo, 1b, Stagg HS, Palos Hills
17. Seth Schwindenhammer, of, Limestone HS, Bartonville
18. Jordan Kreke, ss, Eastern Illinois
19. Matt Milroy, rhp/of, Marmion Academy, Aurora
20. Blair Springfield, of, MacArthur HS, Decatur
21. Nick Tindall, c, O'Fallon HS
22. Anthony Cingrani, lhp, South Suburban JC
23. Justin Kopale, ss, St. Rita HS, Chicago
24. Collin Brennan, rhp, Bradley
25. Blake Drake, rhp, Wabash Valley CC
26. Gerardo Esquivel, rhp, De La Salle Institute, Chicago
27. Dominic Altobelli, 3b, Illinois
28. Kevin Johnson, rhp, Mount Carmel HS, Chicago
29. Ian Gardeck, rhp, Crystal Lake South HS
30. Alex Staehely, ss, Benet Academy, Lisle
31. Aaron Johnson, c, Illinois
32. Adam Worthington, rhp, Illinois-Chicago
33. Scott Marinier, rhp, St. Rita HS, Chicago
34. Nathan Dorris, lhp, Marion HS,
35. Brad Altbach, rhp, Bradley
36. David Kington, rhp, Southern Illinois
37. Mark Kelly, c, Southern Illinois
38. Jordan Tokarz, 2b, Eastern Illinois
39. Jo Jo Maldonado, ss, Oak Park & River Forest HS, Oak Park
40. Walt Wijas, rhp, Conant HS, Hoffman Estates

SCOUTING REPORTS

TYLER KEHRER, LHP, EASTERN ILLINOIS

Kehrer went just 1-5, 5.02 as a sophomore in 2008, but he hinted at his potential by battling Eastern Kentucky's Christian Friedrich (who became the Rockies' first-round pick) and Jacksonville State's Ben Tootle, the Ohio Valley Conference's two best arms, to draws. While he's still somewhat of a work in progress, Kehrer's fastball has sat at 90-93 mph for most of his starts this spring, and he carries that velocity into the late innings. He has improved his slider to the point where it's an average pitch. He helped his cause by delivering a 14-strikeout one-hitter against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in front of several scouts. How much progress Kehrer can make with the consistency of his changeup and command will determine whether he remains a starter in pro ball. He's a strong 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, and his fastball would play up in shorter relief stints. If Kehrer goes in the third round, he'd be Eastern Illinois' highest draft pick since the Athletics took Stan Royer 16th overall in 1988.

TANNER BUSHUE, RHP, SOUTH CENTRAL HS, FARINA

A sprained right knee that didn't require surgery caused Bushue to miss most of his junior season and the summer showcase circuit in 2008, severely limiting his exposure. Now that he's healthy again, he has vaulted past lefthanders Ian Krol (Neuqua Valley HS, Naperville) and Jerad Grundy (Johnsburg HS) as the best prep prospect—and perhaps the top draft pick—in Illinois this spring. An all-area basketball player who averaged 18.2 points per game as a senior, Bushue is just beginning to realize his potential on the diamond. An extremely athletic 6-foot-4, 180-pounder, he repeats his delivery well and throws with little effort. That allows him to maintain his 88-90 mph fastball into the late innings, and he can reach 93 mph with the promise of more to come. Bushue's curveball is a solid-average pitch, though he needs to use it more often, and he also messes around with a slider. He hasn't made much progress with a changeup, a pitch he'll need to remain a starter at higher levels. He has signed with John A. Logan (Ill.) CC rather than a four-year school and should be signable in the first 10 rounds. A team that believes in his upside could pop Bushue as early as the fourth round.

IAN KROL, LHP, NEUQUA VALLEY HS, NAPERVILLE

Krol entered the year as the top-rated prospect in Illinois but never threw a pitch for Neuqua Valley High. He was suspended for the entire season in March after his second violation of the school's athletic code of conduct. He was found in the presence of alcohol when police pulled over the driver of a car Krol was riding in for suspicion of driving under the influence. After performing well on the showcase circuit last summer, he has spent this spring pitching in a scout league in Wisconsin on the weekends. Scouts who like him project him as a lefty who'll have command of three average pitches, while others hold his size, velocity and makeup concerns against him. Krol's out pitch is his hard, two-plane curveball, and some scouts grade his changeup as his second-best offering. He sat at 88-90 mph on the showcase circuit last summer but has pitched more at 86-88 mph this spring. At 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, he doesn't project to add much more velocity, though he get s good sink on his fastball from a low-three-quarters angle. Krol has committed to Arizona, which will honor his scholarship despite his suspension. He projected as a possible third-rounder at the start of the season but now figures to go closer to the sixth round.

Injury Sidetracks Nommensen

Outfielder Brett Nommensen put up the best hitting numbers in college baseball in the first half of the season, batting .521 with 11 homers and leading NCAA Division I in on-base percentage (.649) and slugging (1.021) through 28 games.  Then he broke the hamate bone in his right wrist and didn't bat again until the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. Five-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Nommensen has a compact lefthanded swing and a patient approach. While scouts acknowledge his ability to hit and get on base, as well as his instincts, they question whether he has more than one big league tool. He has below-average power and average speed and arm strength, which may make him more of a tweener than a regular outfielder down the line. That's why he went undrafted despite batting .402 as junior a year ago.

The best high school position player in the state is Danny Sheppard, an athletic catcher with the potential to shine offensively and defensively. A 6-foot, 180-pound righthanded hitter, he has good power but his bat may not be ready for pro ball. A center fielder as a junior, he moves well and has a strong arm behind the plate. He also played quarterback and middle linebacker for Downers Grove North, and he brings that football mentality to the diamond. He's an Iowa recruit.

Drafted in the 48th round by the Yankees as a redshirt sophomore a year ago, righthander Rob Scahill should go about 40 rounds higher this time around. He shook off an early-season oblique injury to pitch in the low 90s and touch 95 mph down the stretch. Scahill's fastball has good life and he has shown the ability to maintain its velocity. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder shows a slightly above-average slider at times, though his stuff plays down when his command wavers. He has bounced back nicely after missing the entire 2007 season following labrum surgery.

Righthander Scott Firth's size (6 feet and 165) and signability (he's a top student committed to Clemson) may work against him, but scouts love his arm and competitiveness. He has a heavy 88-91 mph fastball that tops out at 93, and he backs it up with a solid slider. He'll probably spend three years with the Tigers before turning pro.

Despite being one of the smallest players in the Big Ten, 5-foot-8 shortstop Brandon Wikoff is one of its biggest threats at the plate. The lefthanded hitter became the first Illinois player ever to hit for the cycle, batted .373/.434/.544 and finished the season on an 18-game hitting streak. He has exceptional bat control, ranking second in NCAA Division I in at-bats per strikeout (32.6) and reaching base in all but one of the Illini's 54 games. Wikoff isn't toolsy, but he gets the most out of what he has and has fine instincts. He has average speed but his fringe arm may necessitate a move to second base in pro ball.

Danny Jimenez was Illinois' top high school lefthander (and a 37th-round pick of the Cardinals) a year ago, and now he's the state's best juco prospect. Jimenez' stuff is similar to what it was a year ago, as he usually pitches from 87-91 mph and maintains that velocity into the late innings. He has tightened up his curveball and gotten more comfortable with his changeup, but both pitches still need work. His delivery isn't the cleanest and he doesn't have a lot of projection remaining in his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame, but he has a strong left arm and gets results. If he doesn't turn pro, he'll return to John A. Logan CC for his sophomore season.

Logan also has Illinois' second-best juco prospect in James Jones. A 6-foot-3, 210-pound righthander, Jones showed a 91-93 mph fastball and flashed an intriguing slider in fall practice. He wasn't consistent in the spring, however, and was bothered by elbow tenderness. He could be an early-rounder if 2010 if he puts things together after transferring to Lipscomb.

Scouts say outfielder Dane Opel is the best all-around position player in the state, though it's unlikely he'll be signed away from a commitment to Missouri. The 6-foot-3, 193-pounder has the potential to hit for average and power from the left side. He's also a good athlete who's capable of playing anywhere in the outfield and has been clocked at 90 mph on the mound.

Righthander Mike Giovenco attracted scouts to North Park, an NCAA Division III school with an enrollment of 3,000, when he touched 95 mph early in the year. The 6-foot-6, 235-pounder's velocity steadily declined to the high 80s by the end of the season, but his arm strength and size are attractive. Giovenco, who redshirted at Illinois-Chicago in 2007, needs to come up with a more consistent breaking ball. He throws both a slider and a curveball, as well as a changeup. There's some concern that his delivery puts stress on his shoulder.

Righthander Bryant George has 23 saves in three seasons at Southern Illinois, breaking the school record held by ex-big leaguer Al Levine. George can run his fastball up to 93-94 mph, but his size (5-foot-11, 177 pounds) and lack of a consistent secondary pitch will hurt him in the draft.

With an 80 percent scholarship from Miami, lefthander Jerad Grundy is unlikely to turn pro out of high school. He gets good run on his 89-92 mph from a low arm slot. The 6-foot, 185-pounder throws with a lot of effort in his delivery, and while he throws strikes he projects as a reliever in the long run. He'll throw four pitches for strikes at times, but none of his secondary offerings is a putaway pitch.

Outfielder Jake Goebbert's junior season ended April 12, when he slammed into an outfield wall and lacerated his kidney. He's a 6-foot, 205-pounder with a good approach, a quality lefthanded bat and gap power. He has some arm strength but his lack of speed will limit him to left field or first base, and he may not have enough home run pop to project as a regular at those spots. He'll be able to play for Harwich in the Cape Cod League, allowing teams to track him as a summer follow.

First baseman Justin Ringo established himself as one of the state's top hitters by batting .538 with 15 homers as a junior, so opponents pitched around him all spring. He drew 46 walks this year, the fifth-highest total in Illinois prep history. The 6-foot, 190-pounder packs a lot of power his compact lefthanded swing. He moves well enough to possibly play the outfield, but his throwing arm hasn't been the same since he hurt his shoulder in the summer before his junior year. His commitment to Stanford may preclude him from being drafted.

Outfielder Seth Schwindenhammer has some of the best offensive potential among the state's high schoolers. He's a strong 6-foot-2, 200-pound lefthanded hitter with good power, though he'll have to close some holes in his swing. He's a solid athlete with arm strength who projects as a right fielder. He has committed to Illinois.

Outfielder Blair Springfield offers solid power potential from the right side of the plate. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound righthanded hitter may be a tweener outfielder by pro standards at this point, as he doesn't run well enough to play center and isn't big or strong enough for the corners yet. He's the cousin of Jermaine Dye and an Illinois State recruit.