State Report: Illinois

High school arms lead the way in Land of Lincoln






See also: Baseball America's Complete 2010 Draft Map


THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
The state of Illinois hasn't produced a first-rounder since Kris Honel in 2001, and that streak likely won't end this year because top prospect Mike Foltynewicz fits more in the sandwich round. Foltynewicz headlines a deep crop of high school arms, many of whom could be early picks three years from now after time in college.

The state does not have much in the way of position players. The colleges are barren, there's divided opinion on Wabash Valley CC outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. and the best high school bat, St. Rita outfielder Mark Payton, stands just 5-foot-8.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Mike Foltynewicz, rhp, Minooka Community HS (National Rank: 44)
2. Mel Rojas Jr., of, Wabash Valley CC (National Rank: 135)
3. Josh Mueller, rhp, Eastern Illinois (National Rank: 150)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

4. Eric Jokisch, lhp, Northwestern
5. Ryan Hartman, rhp, Mount Zion HS
6. D.J. Snelten, lhp, Lakes Community HS, Lake Villa
7. Mark Payton, of, St. Rita HS, Orland Park
8. Patrick Cooper, rhp, Bradley
9. Mike Giovenco, rhp, North Park
10. Chuck Ghysels, rhp, Lincoln Trail CC
11. Mike Recchia, rhp, Eastern Illinois
12. Chad Green, rhp, Effingham HS
13. Mike Hollenbeck, c, Joliet Township HS
14. John Lieske, rhp, Harlem HS, Machesney Park
15. Adam Eggemeyer, of, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville
16. Kevin Tokarski, 2b, Illinois State
17. Danny Winkler, rhp, Parkland JC
18. Kevin Kiermaier, of, Parkland JC
19. Connor Sadzeck, rhp, Crystal Lake Central HS
20. Jake DePew, c, Granite City HS
21. Ryan Scarpetta, rhp, Hononegah HS, Rockton
22. Michael Mosby, 3b, Wabash Valley CC
23. Kevin Koziol, 3b, Brother Rice HS, Chicago
24. Tyler Oliver, 1b, Wabash Valley CC
25. Bryant George, rhp, Southern Illinois
26. Jeff Jackson, c/of, Wauconda HS
27. Brock Stewart, 3b, Normal West HS
28. Chad Noble, c, Northwestern
29. Patrick Flanagan, rhp, Rend Lake CC
30. Chris Razo, rhp, Heartland CC

SCOUTING REPORTS

Mike Foltynewicz, rhp

Minooka Community HS


Foltynewicz is far and away the best pitching prospect in the Upper Midwest. He opened eyes by sitting at 91-94 mph and touching 96 with his fastball at a preseason showcase in February, and he has shown similar velocity throughout the spring. With his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame, strength and arm speed, it's easy to project him regularly throwing in the mid-90s down the road. He already has an advanced changeup for a high school pitcher, as it features good sink and could become a plus pitch. He doesn't consistently stay on top of his breaking pitches, though he was doing a better job later in the spring. He throws both a curveball and a slider, and he'd be best served by focusing on improving his slider. Since 1983, only one Illinois high school pitcher has gone in the first round (Kris Honel in 2001), though a team that believes Foltynewicz can refine a breaking ball could be tempted to pick him that high. He'll pitch at Texas if he doesn't turn pro.

Mel Rojas Jr., of

Wabash Valley CC


Rojas is a lock to become the highest draft pick ever out of Wabash Valley CC, surpassing Toby Matchulat, a Cubs 11th-rounder two years ago. The son of the former big league closer of the same name, Mel Jr. could go as high as the second round to a team that views him as a five-tool athlete. He's the most debated prospect in the Midwest, as some see him as a tweener who doesn't fit the profile at any outfield position. A 6-foot-3, 200-pound switch-hitter, Rojas has good bat speed and strength, but his flat swing results in a lot of grounders and he doesn't barrel balls consistently. He led all national juco players with 61 steals in 64 attempts, though his naysayers don't think he'll be as prolific in pro ball because his pure speed grades out as just slightly above-average. He may not be quick enough to play center field at the major league level, though he has the arm strength to move to right field. The consensus among area scouts is that he's a fourth- to fifth-round talent, but he'll get picked higher than that. He turned down offers to sign out of the Dominican Republic, and went undrafted a year ago when he redshirted at Wabash Valley.

Josh Mueller, rhp

Eastern Illinois


Mueller won 14 games in his first two seasons at Eastern Illinois, then proved himself with a strong summer in the Cape Cod League. He came out throwing 90-95 mph with a good three-quarters breaking ball in his first start of the spring, but two weeks later he was down to 83-87. Shoulder weakness was the culprit, and it knocked him out for a month. Since returning, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder has worked at 88-92 mph and with less downward angle and life than before. He also has struggled to hold his velocity out of the stretch. His No. 2 pitch is more of a low-80s slider now. His changeup has its moments but lacks consistency. A fully healthy Mueller might have gone in the first three rounds of the draft, but he now figures to go between the fourth and sixth.

Jokisch Finishes Strong

After a slow start caused in part by a sore back, Eric Jokisch regained the form that made him one of the top lefties in the Cape Cod League last summer, and he could pass Josh Mueller to become the first Illinois college pitcher drafted. A 6-foot-3, 180-pounder, Jokisch isn't overpowering but has good feel for a three-pitch mix. His changeup is his best offering and could become a true plus pitch, and he sets it up with a fastball that sits at 86-89 mph and a curveball that shows bite at times. He'll have to pitch inside more once he gets to pro ball.

Ryan Hartman barely registered on the scouting radar before the season, and that didn't change when he came out throwing 87-88 mph at a showcase for Illinois and Indiana players in early February. He was rusty after playing basketball, however, and since Hartman got into baseball shape, he has made a push to go in the top 10 rounds. He has the best curveball in the state, a hard 76-78 mph bender, and he sat at 90-91 mph with his fastball throughout a highly anticipated matchup with Effingham High's Chad Green. Hartman's arm works well and he still has projection remaining in his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame. He has committed to Eastern Illinois but no longer is a safe bet to make it to college.

D.J. Snelten stood 5-foot-8 as a freshman and owned a 78 mph fastball as a sophomore, but he has blossomed into a 6-foot-6, 210-pound lefthander who has peaked at 91 mph this spring. He's still a work in progress, usually working at 87-89 mph and spinning a curveball that lacks command. He's going to need time to develop because he doesn't repeat his delivery well, but a team that loves his upside could try to buy him out of a Minnesota scholarship.

Mark Payton presents a quandary for scouts. They love his makeup and energy, and he's not short on tools. He has barreled balls and showed pop with wood bats on the showcase circuit, and he's an above-average runner who plays a fine center field and has a solid arm for the position. The downside is that he's 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, and there simply aren't many big leaguers who look like that. He'd profile better as a second baseman, but he throws lefthanded so that isn't an option. Payton originally committed to Arizona State, though there's a sense now that he'd rather play elsewhere after Sun Devils coach Pat Murphy resigned and the program faces possible NCAA sanctions. The Tigers are rumored to be the team most interested in Payton; Detroit scouting director David Chadd made the diminutive Dustin Pedroia a second-round pick when he worked for the Red Sox.

Patrick Cooper spent his freshman season at Eastern Kentucky, transferred to Des Moines Area CC when Elvis Dominguez and his coaching staff moved to Bradley, then reunited with Dominguez at Bradley this spring. A Cape Cod League all-star last summer, Cooper got off to a slow start this year. The first batter he faced knocked him out of the game with a liner off his forearm, and the lights went out at Tennessee Tech after two innings in his next start. Desperate for a closer, Bradley used him in that role for a while before returning him to the rotation, where he gave up four earned runs in his last three starts. His stuff was down from the Cape, as his fastball went from 90-93 mph to 87-91 and his slider lost depth. He throws strikes and has a decent changeup. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound righthander still could go in the first 10 rounds to a team that saw him good in the Cape or down the stretch. The Diamondbacks made a run at signing him last summer after drafting him in the 34th round, but couldn't close the deal.

Righthander Mike Giovenco once again has drawn scouts to North Park, an NCAA Division III school with an enrollment of 3,000. A 6-foot-6, 235-pounder who pitches at 90-92 mph and touches 95, he broke his own school single-season strikeout record with 101 in 83 innings. He also has a hard curveball, but area scouts aren't totally sold on his stuff. He opens up and doesn't get much extension in his delivery, putting stress on his shoulder and making his fastball more hittable, and he tips off his curve. They also question why Giovenco, who redshirted at Illinois-Chicago in 2007, didn't sign for $75,000 last year as a 26th-round pick of the Twins.

Chuck Ghysels doesn't have a great body, but the 5-foot-10, 200-pound righthander has a 90-92 mph fastball that touches 95. There's effort in his delivery, though his arm strength should get him drafted in the middle rounds. He also has a good curveball but doesn't always throw it for strikes. After spending his freshman season at Dayton, Ghysels dominated the Illinois juco ranks, finishing among the national leaders with 117 strikeouts in 79 innings. He threw a five-inning no-hitter against Southwestern Illinois in a sectional playoff game and fanned 13 in a nine-inning no-decision in regionals. He's considered signable despite a commitment to Maryland for 2011.

Eggemeyer, Tokarski Return From Injuries

Outfielder Adam Eggemeyer is the favorite to be the first position player selected from an Illinois four-year college this June, but his name might not get called until after the 15th round. He's a 6-foot-4, 210-pounder with a sound lefthanded stroke, gap power, solid speed and a chance to play center field as a pro. He's a fifth-year senior who redshirted after injuring his shoulder in 2009.

Kevin Tokarski had the best performance of any of the state's college players. Entering regional play, he was hitting .429 with a .551 on-base percentage (third-highest in NCAA Division I) and a school-record 33 steals. He led Illinois State to its first-ever Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title, and its first tournament championship and NCAA playoff bid since 1994. Scouts view the redshirt sophomore as more of a senior sign for down the road, though. He combines on-base skills with a little pop, solid speed and fine instincts, but he's also a 5-foot-11, 175-pound second baseman who bats righthanded. Tokarski missed all but four games last year while recovering from a wrist injury that required three surgeries.

Illinois State should be strong in the future as well, after securing up commitments from three of the state's best high school prospects. Catcher Mike Hollenbeck's receiving skills are raw, but he has a strong arm, lefthanded power potential and a pro body (6-foot-2, 210 pounds). The buzz is that the catching-needy Red Sox could take him in the first 10 rounds. Righthander John Lieske hasn't had a good spring, but the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder's arm works well and he'll flash a 91-93 mph fastball when he's on. Third baseman Brock Stewart has hitting ability and arm strength but needs to fill out his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame. Stewart's father Jeff is a former Redbirds coach who now scouts for the Padres.

Righthander Mike Recchia outpitched Mueller at Eastern Illinois this spring, earning first-team all-Ohio Valley Conference recognition for the second straight year and squeezing in nine relief appearances around 13 starts. Scouts say his 6-foot-1, 210-pound build and his arm action will fit better in the bullpen as a pro. His fastball ticked up from 88-91 mph to 92-93 when he worked in relief. His slider isn't very effective, so he may need to find a different second pitch.

As an athletic 6-foot-4, 185-pound righthander who also starred in basketball, Chad Green is reminiscent of Tanner Bushue, whom the Astros drafted in the second round last year out of a nearby high school. Green isn't as good as Bushue, but he'll show a low-90s fastball in the early innings of games. He lacks arm speed, so his ability to spin a curveball isn't great. He's more about projection than present value, and could blossom into an early-round pick if he attends Louisville.

Bryce Harper may become the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but entering the Junior College World Series, Tyler Oliver held a narrow 30-29 lead over him in the national juco home run race. Oliver, who also led all juco players with 103 RBIs, is a bad-bodied (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) first baseman who crushes mistakes. His righthanded power is his lone standout tool. After beginning his college career with stints at Marshall and Morehead State, he'll attend Kentucky next year if he doesn't turn pro.