2021 Illinois Top MLB Draft Prospects
Today, Baseball America rolls out its state-by-state rankings for the 2021 MLB Draft. Additionally, you can find our:
Sweeney is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound infielder who ranks among the top of the bat-first, tweener profile players in the draft. He’s been a shortstop at Eastern Illinois and was previously viewed as a player who would not stick at the position and would eventually move to a corner or become more of a utility player, but he showed improvements this season at the position. He’s an average athlete with a plus arm, and he’s shown the ability to get to power, but the hit tool is what has most impressed. Sweeney controls the zone, has good bat-to-ball skills, and makes hard contact. For the Panthers this year he slashed .382/.522/.712 with 14 homers in 48 games, walking 46 times with just 24 strikeouts. Scouts have wondered what he might do against tougher competition on a consistent basis, but he continued to show up when he did come across tough arms. He has a big leg kick and a big bat tip in a noisy swing, but if he’s able to quiet it down, what he does at the plate could translate to the next level. He showed fewer holes in the swing on the outer half this season and he’s done a better job of keeping his barrel in the zone. Sweeney has been an impressive college shortstop and has a long track record of production and steady play.
Gosswein is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound lefthander with big-time sinker life and a four-pitch mix. The 22-year-old will run his fastball up to 95 mph and it sits 90-93 but he profiles as a ground-ball pitcher. He has a slider and a slurvy curveball that both touch average, and the two pitches can blend together. When they do, he can get some swings and misses. The changeup has flashed better than average, making it a solid mix for an athletic southpaw with arm strength.
Campbell has had eyes on him since high school but he struggled in his first two seasons at Illinois to get his bat going. He has a chance to be a good defender behind the plate, and he began to produce more this season with the Fighting Illini, slashing .299/.369/.546 with six homers and six doubles in 30 games. The question remains whether he can continue to hit over any kind of extended stretch.
Mount Carmel High has produced several high-profile hitters in recent years, with shortstop Ed Howard going to the Cubs in the first round in 2020 and outfielder Alek Thomas selected by the Diamondbacks in the second round in 2018. Applebey is the top prospect out of the school in the 2021 class, though he’s not at the level of Howard and Thomas and is a completely different sort of player as a huge, 6-foot-8, 230-pound righthander. Applebey has thrown a fastball that’s been up to 93-94 mph at best and he also has a three-quarter breaking curveball in the mid 70s. His size and arm strength made him an interesting name for scouts, but he got hurt this spring and could wind up going to Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound infielder got off to an incredibly hot start last year before the season came to a premature end, which provided some buzz for him coming into this year. In 44 games for Illinois this season, he slashed .323/.457/.445 with 27 walks and 34 strikeouts. Scouts see him as a tweener infielder who might end up at second base but his offensive production is what is most appealing.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound righthander has been Illinois’ best arm and he has some projectability but he’s already on the older end of the draft class. The expectation might be for more physicality or for better stuff because he turned 21 in February and is a third-year college pitcher, but he appears headed in that direction. This year for the Fighting Illini he posted a 2.87 ERA over 11 starts and 62.2 innings, walking 15, striking out 64 and holding opponents to a .209 average.
7. Aidan Maldonado, RHP, Illinois
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 180 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Brewers 2018 (38)
8. Noah Smith, SS, Marist HS, Chicago
Source: HS • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 185 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Louisville
9. Ben Hess, RHP, Charleston HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 205 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Indiana
10. Hayden Jones, C, Illinois State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 215 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
11. Tyler Fullman, RHP, Marian Catholic HS, Chicago Heights, Ill.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 200 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Michigan
12. Cameron Hill, OF/RHP, Brother Rice
Source: HS • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 210 • B-T: R-R •
13. Tristan Peters, OF, Southern Illinois University
Source: 4YR •
14. Michael Trautwein, C/OF, Northwestern University
Source: 4YR •
15. Shawn Goosenberg, SS, Northwestern University
Source: 4YR •
16. Tyler Uberstein, RHP, Northwestern University
Source: 4YR •