State Report: Illinois

State's top prospects might be headed to college




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THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Rating compares this year's group to what a state typically produces, not to other states
After an outstanding Area Code Game performance, high school outfielder Charlie Tilson had a chance to become the first Illinois position player drafted in the first round since Jayson Werth in 1997. He didn't quite fulfill that potential, though he remains the top prospect in the state. He might not be signable away from an Illinois scholarship, however, just as righthander Nick Burdi's high price tag might mean he's ticketed for Louisville. The Prairie State's talent falls off quickly after Tilson and Burdi, with the college pitching crop especially thin.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Charlie Tilson, of, New Trier HS, Winnetka (National Rank: 80)
2. Nick Burdi, rhp, Downers Grove South HS (National Rank: 134)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

3. Jerad Grundy, lhp, Heartland CC
4. Willie Argo, of, Illinois
5. Justin Hancock, rhp, Lincoln Trail CC
6. Jake Junis, rhp, Rock Falls HS
7. Brandon Magallones, rhp, Providence Catholic HS, New Lenox
8. Adam Davis, c, Illinois
9. Zach Borenstein, of/3b, Eastern Illinois
10. Garrett Schlect, of, Waterloo HS
11. Ryan Court, 3b, Illinois State
12. Tyler Farrell, rhp, Galesburg HS
13. Jerad Eickhoff, rhp, Olney Central CC
14. Joe Perricone, rhp, Hersey HS, Arlington Heights
15. Chris Burgess, rhp, Black Hawk JC
16. Corey Maines, rhp, Illinois State
17. Spencer Patton, rhp, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville
18. Josh Parr, ss, Illinois
19. Zac Zellers, of, Heartland CC
20. Tyler McNeely, of, Illinois State
21. Derek Thompson, lhp, Teutopolis HS
22. Chris Razo, rhp, Heartland CC
23. Eric Wyman, lhp, Illinois-Chicago
24. Zach Sterling, rhp, Western Illinois
25. Chris Lashmet, 3b, Northwestern
26. Alex Hermeling, rhp, Glenbrook North HS, Northbrook
27. Garrett Bolt, rhp, Western Illinois
28. Paul Snieder, 1b, Northwestern
29. Wes Minton, ss, Parkland CC
30. Jeff Schalk, 1b, Wheaton North HS

SCOUTING REPORTS

Charlie Tilson, of

New Trier HS, Winnetka

Though Tilson was the best player on New Trier's 2009 Illinois 4-A championship team as a sophomore, he didn't burst onto the prospect scene until the Area Code Games the following summer. Tilson led all players with seven stolen bases in three games, hit the wood-bat event's lone home run and finished fourth in the SPARQ athletic testing. He hasn't quite shown the same tools this spring, however, and fits more in the second or third round. The Area Code homer was an aberration, as the 6-foot, 175-pounder has average bat speed and a line-drive swing. Power isn't his game, as he's a lefty hitter who fits at the top of the lineup. His game is to make contact and get on base. His speed rates a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he'll be more dangerous once he improves his jumps. He runs down balls in center field and shows a slightly above-average arm. His instincts and makeup help enhance his tools. Area scouts who have more history with Tilson don't rate him as highly as scouting directors and crosscheckers who saw him at the Area Code Games. An Illinois recruit, he draws comparisons to former Illini speedster Kyle Hudson, a standout athlete who was a fourth-round pick of the Orioles in 2008. Hudson is quicker, but Tilson is a better hitter and has more polish at the same stage of their careers. He's a top student and could be a tough sign.

Nick Burdi, rhp

Downers Grove South HS

Burdi has the best high school arm in the upper Midwest. He struck out the side in his inning of work at the Under Armour All-America Game last August, then showed an electric 93-95 mph fastball that topped out at 97 at the World Wood Bat Championship two months later. He showed similar arm strength in his first two starts this spring, then missed a month for a variety of reasons and hasn't been the same since. In May, his velocity ranged from 84-93 mph. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder slings the ball from a low three-quarters arm slot, and scouts already were worried about his delivery and projected him as a reliever. He doesn't repeat his mechanics, and sometimes his fastball gets flat and sits up in the zone. His No. 2 pitch is a hard slider that can be devastating at times but lacks consistency. Burdi's lackluster spring, commitment to Louisville and reported seven-figure price tag may cause him to slide in the draft. A team that considers him signable could pop him in the third or fourth round.


Grundy Returns Home, Gets Back On Track

Lefthander Jerad Grundy earned a scholarship to Miami out of Johnsburg (Ill.) HS, but after pitching just 18 innings as a freshman in 2010, he transferred back home to Heartland CC. With an 88-92 mph fastball that touches 94 and a slider that generates swings and misses, he has the weapons to be a late-inning reliever in pro ball. His size (6 feet, 183 pounds) and maximum-effort delivery probably will prevent him from remaining a starter, though he does flash an average changeup. A 46th-round pick of the Rangers out of high school, Grundy has committed to Kentucky for 2012.

After being one of Illinois' most reliable hitters in his first two seasons, outfielder Willie Argo slumped for the first two months of 2011 before righting himself and helping the Illini win their first Big Ten Conference regular-season title since 2005 and first tournament championship since 2000. An impressive 6-foot-1, 205-pound athlete, Argo earned 13 letters in four sports at his Iowa high school and holds the Iowa 4-A record for career touchdowns with 83. He's a plus runner with righthanded power potential, center-field range and average arm strength. Making more consistent contact will be crucial to his development as a pro.

Righthander Justin Hancock was a pleasant surprise for scouts this spring, as his fastball sat in the low 90s and touched 95 mph after he worked at 87-90 mph as a freshman at Lincoln Trail CC. The 6-foot-3, 175-pounder has a quick arm and gets good angle on his pitches. He lacks a reliable secondary pitch and may be more skinny than projectable, but his arm strength is difficult to ignore. He'll attend Indiana State in 2012 if he doesn't turn pro.

Righthander Jake Junis might go in the top 10 rounds if he were signable in that range, but it may take early-round money to lure him away from North Carolina State. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder has more athleticism, feel and aptitude for spinning a breaking ball than Nick Burdi. Junis usually pitches at 88-91 mph, shows the potential for a plus curveball and has a developing changeup. He has the body and easy delivery to remain a starter. He could stand to rein in his cockiness. Junis also shows promising power potential as a third baseman and may play both ways for the Wolfpack. He's also a star basketball player who averaged 19 points and six rebounds a game as a senior.

Righthander Brandon Magallones is quite similar to Junis. He's a 6-foot-3, 185-pounder with an 88-91 mph fastball, the ability to spin a curveball and feel for a changeup. His arm action and delivery are clean, and he still has projection remaining. He's considered unsignable because he has committed to Northwestern and plans to be a pre-med student.

The Big Ten Conference tournament MVP, Adam Davis will be the fourth catcher drafted from Illinois in the last 10 years, following Patrick Arlis, Chris Robinson and Lars Davis (no relation)—all of whom are currently in the upper minors. Adam Davis didn't become a full-time regular until his third year with the Illini, but the 6-foot, 215-pounder has righthanded gap power and a strong, accurate arm. He has a short swing and flashes good receiving skills, though he needs to do a better job of making contact and holding onto the ball.

Built like a wrestler at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Zach Borenstein offers impressive bat speed from the left side of the plate. He has good straight-line speed for his size, but he's stiff and scouts aren't sure where he'll play in pro ball after seeing time at second base, third base, center field and right field in three years at Eastern Illinois. His best spot is probably an outfield corner; he probably doesn't have enough arm to try catcher.

Schlect Offers Bat, Signability

Outfielder Garrett Schlecht has the best combination of talent and signability among Illinois high school players. More physical than Charlie Tilson at 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, Schlecht has a quick lefthanded bat and consistently barrels balls. A Middle Tennessee State recruit, he's a decent athlete whose fringy speed and arm probably will relegate him to left field.

A former walk-on, third baseman Ryan Court hasn't missed a start in three years for Illinois State. He has a big league body (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and put up the best numbers of his career this spring despite the less-potent bats, hitting .323/.460/.533. He has raw righthanded power, arm strength and soft hands, so a conversion to catcher could be in order. A fifth-year senior, he's already 23.

Righthander Tyler Farrell has the best fastball/curveball combination among Illinois prep pitchers. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder sits at 88-91 mph and touches 93, and he throws his curveball with good depth. His over-the-top arm slot and drop-and-drive delivery don't offer much deception. He originally committed to Evansville before switching to Western Illinois.

Righthander Jerad Eickhoff used a heavy 88-91 mph sinker that touches 93 and a newly developed cutter to rank among the national juco strikeout leaders with 116 in 89 innings. He has good size at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, though he needs to work on maintaining his velocity deeper into games and improving his secondary pitches. A 46th-round pick of the Cubs last year, he has committed to Western Kentucky.

Scouts regarded Joe Perricone as more of an outfield prospect with some bat potential and athleticism until he touched 93 mph with his fastball last summer. Now the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder's future is on the mound. A righthander, he has pitched at 88-92 mph with his fastball and at 76-79 mph with his breaking ball, though the latter is slurvy. While his delivery is clean, he gets offline away from the plate and loses his command. He's a Coastal Carolina recruit.

Righthander Chris Burgess didn't get a ton of exposure at Black Hawk, an NJCAA Division II program, so the team that drafts him will probably monitor him this summer with the Northwoods League's Madison Mallards. A 6-foot-2, 201-pounder, Burgess pitches at 88-89 mph, touches 92 and flashes an average slider. He's a third-year sophomore who redshirted at Central Michigan in 2009.

The state's best college pitching prospect is righthander Corey Maines, Illinois State's career wins leader with 24. Six feet and 200 pounds, he relies heavily on a big, sweeping slider that he throws from a low three-quarters arm slot. His sinker usually operates at 88-89 mph and tops out at 91. He spent his first two years as a two-way player, getting regular at-bats as an outfielder.

Injuries also contributed to Illinois' less-than-stellar draft crop. Southern Illinois first baseman Chris Serritella, who hit 13 homers and figured to be the state's best college hitting prospect, took a redshirt year after breaking his right wrist in a intrasquad game. Two of Illinois' top prep pitchers, Marquette Academy (Ottawa) righthander Joe Ceja and Breese Central HS lefty Bryant Holtmann, went down with elbow problems. A Louisville recruit, Ceja touched 93 mph last summer before having a bone spur removed in January. Holtmann, a projectable 6-foot-5, 180-pounder who committed to Florida State, had Tommy John surgery in February.