Illinois 2017 Rankings: Risers



By Drew Locascio 
Illinois Scouting Director

The Illinois updated 2017 rankings were released yesterday and today we delve deeper inside the rankings. With a lot of baseball being played since the last rankings update, plenty of prospects improved their stock and have risen in the rankings.

The Preseason All-State event held in February had a lot to do with the risers in the rankings. Along with the Preseason All-State Showcase, four Preseason I.D.’s took place this winter and a number of college camps. Many of the prospects who rose in the rankings elevated their games during the winter months.

The two risers that stand out near the top of the 2017 rankings are 3B KC Simonich (Joliet Catholic), a Texas Tech recruit and Iowa recruit SS Zion Pettigrew (Mount Carmel HS). Simonich and Pettigrew were clearly the top two infielders at the Preseason All-State event and now find themselves in the Top 15 of the 2017 class. We have always known Simonich possessed one of the top left-handed bats in the class but he left little doubt, if any, after his round of batting practice at the event. Creates easy bat speed with loose hands, has an advanced approach with excellent barrel awareness. Made consistent hard contact to both gaps.

Pettigrew is a premium shortstop prospect. Defensively, he has advanced actions at shortstop. He is a confident, effortless defender with a plus arm across the infield; 90 mph. At the plate he possesses explosive hands and the ball jumps off of his bat; 91 mph exit velocity. Both Pettigrew and Simonich are possible 2017 draft follows.

Video of Zion Pettigrew (Preseason All-State)

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A trio of left-handed arms jumped up considerably in the rankings after their showings at the All-State Showcase. Antonio Saldana (Joliet Catholic), Jimmy Burnette (St. Laurence HS) and Brooks Gosswein (Barrington HS). All three of them are now in the Top 25, led by Saldana, who comes in at No. 21. Hulking, 6-foot-6, 235-pound Saldana was ranked the No. 1 left-handed pitcher at the Preseason All-State. The left-hander has feel for three-pitches all with a chance to be plus offerings. Creates heavy sink and occasional arm-side-run on his 84-87 mph fastball.

Burnette, an Austin Peay recruit, is a two-way prospect at the next level but may have a higher ceiling on the mound after showing a big jump in velocity over the winter. Previously a low to mid 80’s lefty, Burnette sat an easy 86-88 mph, touching 89 with his fastball at the Preseason All-State. Also, flashed a sharp curveball with good depth and a changeup with sink.

Gosswein, like Burnette, showed a big jump in velocity over the winter. During a start In early October, Gosswein intrigued sitting 82-85 mph with confidence in three pitches. In February, he proved those fastball velocities may be a thing of the past, as he sat 89-90 mph at the Preseason All-State. Changeup looks to be his best secondary offering, flashing sinking action and thrown with confidence.

A big riser, not at the Preseason All-State, was RHP Michael Stupinski (Fenwick HS). Stupinski jumped into the No. 27 spot. We saw Stupinski at multiple winter college camps and at the Madison Preseason I.D. in Wisconsin this winter where he showed off his powerful right arm. His fastball ranged from 86-90 mph from a ¾ slot and flashed arm-side-run. Changeup is presently ahead of his breaking ball, although at the Madison I.D. a few weeks ago, it showed much better action than it had earlier in the winter.

Video of Michael Stupinski (Madison Preseason I.D.)
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3B Alex Steinbach (Plainfield North HS) who now sits at No. 70, up 37 spots, was not in attendance at the All-State Showcase but we got our eyes on him at a winter college camp in December. He is an above-average defender, flashing soft hands and an extremely accurate arm across the diamond. Offensively, he took one of the most impressive rounds of batting practice at the winter camp. He has present bat speed and consistently barreled baseballs with authority.

Stayed tuned for another look inside the Illinois Class of 2017 Rankings coming soon. We will take a look at some of the top newcomers to enter the Top 125.

CLICK HERE for a look at the updated rankings.

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