Top 2018 MLB Draft Prospects from Illinois
1. Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS, Chicago (BA Rank: 57)
HS • 5-11 • 175 • L-L •
Thomas, the son of White Sox strength coach Allen Thomas, is a three-sport star who is committed to Texas Christian to play both baseball and football. He is an elite all-around athlete, but his professional future is on the diamond and he was the leading hitter for USA Baseball’s gold-medal winning 18U National Team at last fall’s World Cup. Listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Thomas is well built and a well above-average runner. He produces above-average bat speed and has surprising power for a player his size, but his game is built more around his speed and ability to hit. He has the potential to be a plus hitter and makes good in-game adjustments, with a history of barreling up big-time velocity during the summer showcase circuit. Thomas’ speed plays well in the outfield and he covers ground well in center field, but his arm is below-average and could be his worst tool. One of the best athletes in the class with a chance to hit and play a solid center field, Thomas could be among the first prep outfielders selected in June. There are teams and evaluators who question his future impact, however, and some aren’t sure how much better they can project him.
2. Trey Riley, RHP, John A. Logan (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: 80)
JC • So. • 6-2 • 200 • R-R •
John A. Logan (Ill.) JC has become a pipeline for power pitchers. Matthias Dietz was a second-round pick of the Orioles in 2016 and Zach Haake impressed scouts last year before moving on to Kentucky, where he’s expected to be Day Two pick this season. But Riley has the best combination of stuff and athleticism of the trio. Riley made one rough appearance with Oklahoma State in 2017 before transferring to Logan. He shows signs of being a future middle-of-the-rotation starter as he mixes a 93-95 mph plus fastball that touches 97 mph. His 85-89 mph slider is consistently above-average and is a plus-plus pitch at its best. Riley’s changeup is well below-average and he doesn’t need it much right now, but he’s toyed with a curveball that quickly developed into a pitch that will flash average potential. Riley’s athleticism, easy velocity and improving delivery make him on of the better pop-up prospects in the Midwest.
3. Joey Gerber, RHP, Illinois (BA Rank: 145)
4YR • Jr. • 6-4 • 215 • R-R •
Illinois’ closer has effectively shut the door on hitters around the Big Ten, as his 93-96 mph fastball is enough to blow away hitters and he mixes in an above-average slider as well. He’s even flashed an average changeup, although he barely ever throws it. Gerber is a pure relief prospect with a reliever’s delivery, which limits how high he will be drafted, but he has present stuff to handle a setup role and a track record of success (0-1, 2.74, 13 saves with 38 strikeouts and nine walks in 23 innings).
4. Bren Spillane, 1B/OF, Illinois (BA Rank: 174)
4YR • • 6-5 • 210 • R-R •
Spillane has had as good a season, statistically, as anyone in the country thanks to some hot streaks where he seemed impossible to retire. Spillane had five separate multi-home run games, including a three-home run, four-hit game against Southern Illinois. His .426/.524/.973 slash line ranks first in the nation in slugging percentage and top 10 in both on-base percentage and batting average. His 20 home runs is also among the best in the country. And while it’s easy to project 25-plus home run power for Spillane, scouts are much more worried about his hitting ability. Even with his .426 batting average this year, scouts are hesitant to call Spillane a future average hitter. His swing has some length to it and there is a lot of swing and miss to his game, as he’s striking out in 25 percent of his plate appearances. Still, Spillane has plus-plus raw power with the strength to hit the ball out to all fields. With a metal bat, even mishits by Spillane carry. He plays first base at Illinois because the Illini have a very good set of outfielders, but he projects better in the outfield than he does at first, where his footwork needs work and he’s below-average defensively. He’s an above-average runner with enough speed to handle a corner outfield spot and he has a plus arm. Spillane doesn’t have much of a track record—he barely played as a freshman and missed time as a sophomore because of injuries—but his outstanding junior season cannot be ignored. Iowa’s Jake Adams posted similar numbers in the Big 10 last year and lasted to the Astros in the sixth round because of his lack of athleticism. Spillane should go higher because he can run, and his prodigious power could push him into the third or fourth round.
5. Owen Miller, SS, Illinois State (BA Rank: 392)
4YR • 6-0 • 195 • R-R •
College shortstops who are reliable defenders are in demand come draft day and Miller checks off those boxes, even if his below-average arm will almost assuredly force a move to second base in pro ball. Miller has good hands, above-average range and plus speed that work in the dirt and his track record of steady contact gives some comfort level that he will hit as well. Miller was hitting .387/.435/.427 as of late-May, with 20 extra-base hits and eight stolen bases. He’s yet to show productive power, but he has some strength in his hands and a physical frame. That leads evaluators to believe he may bump up his well-below-average power and run into 5-to-10 home runs a year eventually.
6. Charlie Cerny, RHP, Illinois-Chicago (BA Rank: N/A)
Cerny fills the zone with a 90-94 mph sinker that generates tons of ground balls. He throws a fringe-average slider to keep hitters off the sinker.
7. Jacob Maton, RHP/SS, Glenwood HS, Chatham, Ill. (BA Rank: N/A)
There are evaluators who think Jacob Maton will eventually match or exceed his big league brother Phil. He currently sits at 90-91 mph but has touched 94. He's committed to Coastal Carolina.
8. Bobby Johnson, RHP, Bradley (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr. • 6-1 • 185 • R-R •
Johnson has a fastball that sits 91-93 and touches 95 mph but his secondary offerings are less refined.
9. Mike Mateja, 3B, North Central (Ill.) (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr. • 6-0 • 200 • R-R •
Mateja is a solid defender at third base with a lengthy track record as a hitter (.444/.534/.691 this season).
10. Ian Koch, RHP, Western Illinois (BA Rank: N/A)
Koch showed promise as a 92-94 mph reliever with a solid slider last year. His stuff has backed up as a starter this year, but scouts may remember he looked better in shorter stints.
11. Brenden Heiss, RHP, John A. Logan (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
JC • So.
Heiss has impressed as the next in a run of talented arms from John A. Logan JC. He's sat 90-94 mph with a true CB that has some power.
12. Zaid Walker, OF, Homewood-Flossmoor HS, Flossmoor, Ill. (BA Rank: N/A)
HS • 6-2 • 215 • R-R •
13. Korren Thompson, LHP, Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
JC • So.
14. Tanner Gordon, RHP, John A. Logan (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
JC • So.
Gordon likely needs to go to Indiana, but he has plenty of potential. He's sitting 88-92 mph in most outings but he's 90-93 mph in his best outinsg.
15. Caden Monke, LHP/OF, Mount (Ill.) Olive HS (BA Rank: N/A)
HS • 6-3 • 165 • L-L •
16. Antonio Saldana, LHP, Heartland (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
Saldana is a low-slot, almost sidearm lefty who missed tons of bats this year (15 K/9) thanks to a 89-90 mph fastball and a sweepy slider.
17. Michael Baird, RHP, Southern Illinois (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr. • 6-5 • 210 • R-R •
18. Jack Yalowitz, OF, Illinois (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Jr.
. Danny Zimmerman, LHP, Lincoln-Way North HS, Frankfort, Ill. (BA Rank: N/A)
. Francois Castillo, RHP, Lake View HS, Chicago (BA Rank: N/A)
. Steven Sanchez, LHP, Mundelein (Ill.) HS (BA Rank: N/A)
. Anthony Herron, 1B, Simeon Career Academy, Chicago (BA Rank: N/A)
. Jonathan Beymer, RHP, Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Jeremy Brierie, RHP, Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Brian Fuentes, C/3B, Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Paul Perez, LHP, Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Brandon Bossard, SS, Heartland (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Jonny Butler, OF, Heartland (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Jim Jarecki, RHP, Heartland (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Mitch Price, RHP, Heartland (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Jackson Bronke, RHP, Heartland (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
JC • So.
. Carson Bartels, INF/C, Heartland (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Carter Bridge, OF, Heartland (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Nathan Lavender, LHP, El Paso-Gridley HS, El Paso, Ill. (BA Rank: N/A)
. Michael Rothmund, 1B, Illinois-Springfield (BA Rank: N/A)
4YR • Sr.
. Cameron Touchette, OF, John A. Logan (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
. Lucas Smith, , Parkland (Ill.) JC (BA Rank: N/A)
JC • So.