Top Illinois 2019 MLB Draft Prospects
State List Talent Ranking: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
(Stars are listed on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being the weakest)
Priester stands out for being a 6-foot-3 prep righthander who has excellent physical projection and advanced strike-throwing capabilities. He has good arm action from a three-quarter arm slot and an easy delivery. Although his delivery lacks flaws, scouts have questioned the quickness of his movements throughout the motion. His fastball sits in the low 90s with good life, but he has topped out at 96 mph this spring. His main secondary offering is a curveball that has good shape and flashes future plus potential. His third pitch is a changeup that lags behind his curveball. Priester hasn’t received much formal pitching instruction to this point, which makes him exceptionally intriguing considering his success and also speaks to his high aptitude for the game. He self-taught himself some of the mechanical details of the game by watching YouTube videos of pitchers he admired and wanted to emulate. While prep arms always have risk associated with them, Priester has the ingredients of a starting pitcher with big upside and has received enough helium this spring to perhaps land in the first round. Priester is committed to Texas Christian.
Scouts love Massey. They love the way he’s hit since the day he arrived at Illinois, and they love that he put on an impressive show with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League last summer. Massey uses the whole field with a short, compact swing and shows excellent plate coverage. His swing seems geared to make him a plus hitter. Scouts also love his defense at second base. Massey was slowed by a back injury early in the season, but he showed above-average range and an average arm. His defensive tools are such that there are evaluators who believe he could play some shortstop and third base in pro ball because he moves well enough to handle the left side of the infield. They also love his makeup and the way he seems to understand the game. His medical report, especially the back injury, will cause some teams concern, but his track record of hitting (.325 or better in all three years at Illinois) and his ability to get the best out of his tools should allow him to go at some point on Day 2.
A 35th-round pick of the Red Sox coming out of high school in 2016, Rave earned Illinois State’s center field job almost immediately upon arriving on campus and has been one of the Redbirds’ best players ever since. After an extremely impressive sophomore season in which he hit .347/.402/.571 and an equally solid summer in the Cape Cod League, where he hit .304/.392/.464, Rave has established himself as one of the better hitters in the Midwest. Scouts have seen signs of a little drafitis from Rave this year, however, as he seemed to be pressing more and gearing up for more power. His strikeout rate climbed and his slash line dipped to .304/.390/.521 as a junior. Scouts don’t love Rave’s swing and how he drops his hands. He can get a little bit out outside-in on his swing at times, but he’s been effective at the plate, leading scouts to project an average hitter with average power as he matures and gets stronger. Rave is a plus runner who has a chance to stay in center field, although his decision making on routes needs further refinement. As a lefthanded hitter with a solid track record at the plate and plus speed, Rave fits as a useful fourth- to sixth-round pick.
Prosecky is a 6-foot-4, 205-pound lefthander who has good arm strength and a consistent delivery. His upper and lower halves sync up nicely, which allows his arm to follow a smooth path in order to get out in front and finish his pitches. Prosecky’s fastball sits in the 89-93 mph range, and he has shown feel for an average changeup. His breaking ball is well below-average and will need to be refined in order to profile as a starting pitcher in pro ball. Prosecky is committed to Louisville.
Paciorek is a converted reliever who has been successful out of the bullpen for Northwestern. He has struck out 44 batters in just 26.2 innings so far this spring, but he has also struggled with 18 walks during that same span. A former catcher, Paciorek is athletic and has a good delivery, attacking hitters with a low-90s fastball that reaches 94 mph. He pairs his fastball with a slider that has good shape and flashes plus potential with a chance to be a double-plus offering in the future. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound righthander can only hold his stuff for an inning or two, ensuring that he sticks in the bullpen at the next level. Paciorek has good arm strength with little mileage, which helps him to stand out as a two-pitch reliever.
A 6-foot-3, 212-pound outfielder with a picturesque slugger’s frame, Hodges has plus-plus raw power and can hit the ball as far as almost anyone in the 2019 class. Most of that power is restricted to batting practice, however, as Hodges has struggled with average high school pitching and whiffs too frequently. His bat path and swing look good, mechanically, but he struggles to cover the entire plate and is frequently fooled by secondary pitches. Hodges looked better with the bat during games last summer and fall than he has this spring, so some teams might feel more comfortable with his bat moving forward. Regardless, he’ll need more patience as he develops a sound approach and becomes a more polished hitter. Hodges is athletic, but he’s an average runner who moves better in a straight line than he does out of the batter’s box or in the outfield chasing down fly balls. He’ll make the routine plays in a corner outfield spot, but his arm might be better served for left field than in right. Hodges is an Arkansas commit, and he could significantly raise his stock by getting to school and performing in the SEC.
Intrigued by his easy velocity, the Padres made a serious effort to sign Kelly as a 13th-round pick out of high school. He opted instead to head to Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC, which appears to be a wise move, as he’s more highly regarded a year later. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Kelly touched 100 mph at some point. Already, he sits at 93-95 and touches 97 from the left side with extremely easy arm action. He also optimistically has the makings of a future above-average slider. Athletic teenage lefties with this kind of stuff often hear their name called relatively quickly in the draft, especially when they strike out 19.1 batters per nine innings. Kelly does throw across his body and struggles at times to find the strike zone, but the fastball-slider combo is going to be hard for teams to ignore.
A physical, 6-foot-3, 187-pound shortstop committed to Missouri, Greer has a few exciting tools including above-average raw power, a strong arm and plus running ability. After his play last summer, scouts were concerned about the quality of his hit tool. He swung and missed frequently and didn’t show much ability to handle top competition, but Greer has worked hard over the offseason and has looked much better with the bat this spring. He added weight and became more physical over the offseason as well. Defensively, Greer has solid actions and enough arm strength for the left side of the infield, but his glove can be shaky at time and scouts think he is better when he simply reacts to the ball rather than on plays where he has time to overthink things. Because of his frame, most think he’ll move to the hot corner at the next level. If he continues adding polish Greer could turn into a solid offensive and defensive player, but his overall game is still a bit raw. Scouts praise Greer’s work ethic and passion for the game.
A 6-foot-4, 205-pound righthander with an excellent frame, Lee is committed to Kentucky. He has plenty of arm speed and can touch 95 mph while sitting 90-93 mph, but he scatters his fastball around the plate right now with fringy control thanks in part to a long arm action. His breaking ball has a chance to develop into an average pitch, but it’s consistently below-average right now. Lee is the kind of projectable high school pitcher that keeps scouts up at night. If it all comes together, he has the tools to develop into a quality starter, but there’s a long way to go to get there.
McCormick is a 6-foot, 195-pound catcher who is known for his ability to put the barrel on the ball. He has strong hands and a good feel to hit. His defense doesn’t project long term behind home plate and is best suited for an audition at first base or left field. McCormick is committed to West Virginia.
Watson entered Illinois as a two-way player but settled into a role on the mound, and has flashed good stuff over three years in the Big 10, but has never put together the performance to back it up. A 6-foot-1, 195-pound righty, Watson has a solid delivery and pitches in the 89-91 mph range, but touched 94 mph last fall. He has three secondary pitches, but a curveball is his most consistent offering and looks like an average pitch at his best. Watson has never missed as many bats as his stuff might suggest, and while he had a career year this spring with a 3.65 ERA over 13 starts and 69 innings, walked 39 batters compared to 49 strikeouts.
A South Carolina signee, Peters was expected to be one of the better junior college pitchers in the country. Instead he hurt his elbow just two innings into his first start of the season and had to have Tommy John surgery. Most likely he’ll now get to be a Gamecock, but before the injury he sat 92-95 mph and touched 97 with late life on his fastball and a surprisingly easy delivery. He had a promising changeup, a developing slider-ish cutter and a curveball.
Gladney is a big and strong third baseman with a promising bat and plus raw power. There’s contact issues right now to go with the power. There are more concerns about his defense as a number of evaluators believe he will end up in left field eventually. He’s signed to go to Eastern Kentucky.
Leader is a 5-foot-9 prep righthander with plus arm speed and a short arm action. He can hit 93 mph with his fastball. He also has feel to spin a slider. Leader’s stature does limit his projection and most scouts see him as a future reliever in pro ball. He’s committed to Illinois.
Ray came into the year as one of the must-see pitchers on a very talented Logan (Ill.) JC club. Unfortunately it was hard to see him, as the 6-foot-3 righthander missed most of the season with oblique issues. The Texas Christian signee touched 96 mph early in the season and falashes both a promising curveball and changeup from a solid frame. He’s toned down the violence in his delivery as well. Ray threw only eight innings over two appearances this spring, which will likely make it tough for a team to draft him high enough to sway him from his TCU commitment.
16. Alex Helmin, 1B/OF, Providence Catholic HS, New Lenox, Ill.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 189 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Arizona State
17. Luke Shadid, INF, Bradley
Source: 4YR • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 180 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
18. Brent Headrick, LHP, Illinois State
Source: 4YR • Ht: 6-6 • Wt: 227 • B-T: L-L • Commitment/Drafted: Never Drafted
19. Jared Cushing, SS, Joliet (Ill.) Catholic HS
Source: HS • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 185 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Texas Tech
20. Noah Myers, CF, Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 195 • B-T: L-R • Commitment/Drafted: South Carolina
21. Kendall Ewell, OF, Marist HS, Chicago
Source: HS • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 200 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Eastern Kentucky
22. Austin Kelly, RHP, Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 205 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: –
23. Bryce Barnett, RHP, Providence Catholic HS, New Lenox, Ill.
Source: HS • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 150 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Arizona State
24. Kendall Pettis, OF, Brother Rice HS, Chicago
Source: HS • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 185 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Oklahoma
25. Ryan O'Connell, RHP, Wabash Valley (Ill.) JC
Source: JC • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 180 • B-T: R-R • Commitment/Drafted: Alabama