Heading into the spring season, I thought that the state of Illinois would’ve been well-represented in the MLB Amateur Draft come June.
Now, I’m not so sure. Certainly, it doesn’t look like there will be any top-round guys coming out of Illinois. Moreover, it doesn’t look like there will be many representatives from any of our PBR states – especially after a foot injury sidelined No. 1-ranked Matt Smoral (Solom HS, OH) for the season. Big RHP Taylore Cherry (Vandalia Butler HS, OH) should be the only top-round draft in our coverage area.
After the Super 60, I was confident there would be a handful of guys. This spring, however, has not been kind to many of the high-interest players. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that there won’t be any drafts out of Illinois. Just not any top three-round guys, from what I’m hearing.
Signability plays a significant role in the draft, but assuming all players have floated reasonable numbers out there (which is never the case), the best bets, from what I’m hearing, are Carmel LHP Alex Young (TCU recruit) and Marian Catholic LHP Brett Lilek (Arizona State recruit). The 6-foot-3 Young has flashed some impressive velocity early this spring (up to 93). Positionally, Niles West INF Kevin Ross (Michigan recruit) looks to be the best bet. Zack Soria, the athletic catcher from St. Rita HS (IL), is another who should receive more pro interest than others.
Red-Hot: No surprise that Oak Park is once again one of the premier teams in the state. The Huskies, currently ranked No. 3 in Illinois, always seem to have an abundance of talent. This season, coach Chris Ledbetter’s squad has been buoyed by the all-around play of two-way talent Zach Weigel, a Seton Hall recruit. On the mound, the left-hander has been lights-out.
But Weigel’s greatest contributions have come as the team’s offensive catalyst at the leadoff spot. The left-handed hitting Weigel, who batted .500 as a junior last season, is off to another torrid start. Despite the bat changes, he’s hitting close to .600.
“He reminds me of Ichiro,” said Ledbetter. “He hits to all fields. In one game, he had three hits, all to different fields.”
Weigel is also the team’s No. 1 pitcher. Ledbetter said that the emergence of 6-foot-3 junior right-hander Henry Cappel has given his pitching staff even more depth. Cappel, who possesses a mid-80s fastball and a sharp breaking ball, has established himself as the team’s No. 2 pitcher. In nine innings pitched this season, Cappel has not yielded a hit.
Oak Park also has plenty of thump in its lineup. Four-year starting catcher Jack Picchiotti (Purdue recruit), junior first baseman Nick Kowalczuk (ranked No. 23 in the Class of 2013) and sophomore Alex Rice are all run-producers.
No-No-No-No: Last week, Newman Central Catholic’s saw its team ERA plummet when its starting pitchers threw back-to-back no-hitters. On Thursday, Tim Wilson tossed a six-inning no-no in a 10-0 victory over Bureau Valley. Wilson recorded nine strikeouts and one walk in the win.
Then, on Saturday, senior left-hander Ryan Olson fired a no-hitter in which he recorded 15 strikeouts in seven innings. Olson, who’s committed to Northern Illinois University, walked three and hit one batter in the 6-0 victory against Dixon.
For the record, Newman Central Catholic is located in Sterling, enrollment of 419 students.
Even Rarer: Think back-to-back no-hitters are rare? How about this: On Friday, Stevenson shortstop Adam Walton turned an unassisted triple play to end the game against Grant. With two runners on base, Walton, who’s signed at the University of Illinois, caught a line drive by junior Jake Ring, stepped on second base and then tagged out the runner who got caught between first and second. Game over.
Have some news? Send it to Sean Duncan at Duncan@prepbaseballreport.com