It’s is a solid year for players from Illinois going into the draft.
While not a hotbed for baseball like the warm-weather states, we in Illinois still produce quality players. Last year, Alek Thomas went in the second round. Current White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson comes from the north suburbs. Zack Burdi is from Downers Grove (apostrophe-free since 1833). Jason Kipnis is one of the best players to come out of our state, and is currently playing in the majors. (His nickname by the way, “Dirtbag,” hmm, does not seem to match up with the tony Northbrook address. I guess the maid coming only once a week makes you a dirtbag. Better than scumbag, I suppose). A recent early draft pick is Corey Ray, from Chicago’s South Side. Hoping for the best for this fine young man.
Anyway, let’s dig in and see who’s going to emerge from the cornfields this year.
Getting right to the heart of the matter. We have a sure first rounder in our midst.
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
6´3´´, 190 pounds
In Baseball America’s newest update, Priester sits at No. 24 on their board. News flash, methinks he’s gone by the 24th pick. He might be, could be, the first high school pitcher taken. This young man is on fire. Kiley McDaniel saw him Thursday and wrote, “I count about 15 guys here that are special assistant, VP, director or GM.” Priester is going early, and could be a star. He pounds the strike zone with all of his pitches, and has a gorgeous bender that’s easily a plus pitch. While watching an interview with him, he’s well spoken and has ... a lot of hair. I’m talking about how-does-he-get-it-all-in-his-cap hair? Think: “Sideshow Bob.”
Priester is committed to Texas Christian. I hope they have a plan B, because $3 million-plus says he’s not making it to Texas.
That’s it for Day 1 players. For Day 2 players, let’s go to college first.
6´0´´, 200 pounds
Mississippi (by way of Carmel H.S., Mundelein)
Cooper is a junior at the University of Mississippi and was one of the top two or three catching prospects out of high school in Mundelein, at Carmel High. Johnson opted for college; I recall his bonus demands being high. As sometimes happens, he stunk it up for his first two years, batting about .220 while driving in 19 over two seasons. This year, Johnson’s bat has woken up, and through 47 games he has six homers, 24 RBI, and .280 average/.373 OBP. So: better. He calls a decent game, and has a rocket arm. My nephew teaches at Carmel. At the time, I asked: “Nice kid?” Long pause: “No, not really.”
Johnson had an SEC Player of the Week performance this season where he hit .545 (6-for-11) while posting a .643 on-base percentage and .909 slugging percentage. He scored six runs and drove in five along the way, and after that, BA moved him from No. 276 to 110 on their board.
6´1´´, 185 pounds
John is a scrappy player who mans center. He has a quick, compact swing, with some pop (10 HR so far.) He went to Central Catholic in Bloomington, and has put two solid years together. I’m guessing sixth round.
Also guessing around the sixth round. Mike played high school ball at Oak Forest. He follows his dad’s path to U of I, His dad was a second baseman, too. Mike is a White Sox fan, and an absolute vacuum cleaner at second. A back injury is keeping him at DH for most of this year, making it tough for him to showcase all of his skills. He’s one of the top two or three players in the Big Ten. I hope he can put his injuries behind him so he can showcase his passion and talent. Good luck, kid.
Left-Handed Relief Pitcher
Wabash Valley CC
Antoine throws a fastball and ... well, that’s about it. He touches 98 mph and throws mid-90s all day long. He throws everything in the direction of home plate. The San Diego Padres tried to sign him last year over slot in the 13th round, but Kelly passed that up, went to community college and said, “give me more money to sign.” It appears he will get his wish. Maybe half a million, in the third or fourth round. He has a David Price comp. Not too shabby. MLB is the highest on him, at No. 90.
OK, high school players, here we come.
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
Nazareth Academy, Westchester, Ill.
That’s right, the town with no downtown, Westchester, (where I currently reside.) Prosecky throws 93 mph easy, and up to 95 mph on the gun. He’s committed to the University of Louisville, and that’s where I believe he’s headed. Just wanted to point out there’s more here than “Scot’s Pet Shop.”
First Baseman/Right Fielder/Right-Handed Pitcher
6´3´´, 205 pounds
Jason is committed to Arkansas. WSM has spent time on him already. He is the nephew of Craig Hodges, who was very talented in another sport. I believe he will and should go to college.
Matt is a West Virginia commit. FanGraphs lists him at No. 123, that’s a solid fourth round pick, with a$464,500 value. They say of him: “McCormick has an advanced hit tool, some power and some ability to catch and throw.”
I’d say take the money, kid. West Virginia can be pretty, but the only person I ever met that signed his name with an X, was from West Virginia.
That’s it, guys. Any more, and I’m going to start making stuff up.