PBR Fall Championship: Illinois Underclass Takeaways


By Illinois Scouting Staff

Each year, PBR Tournaments’ Midwest Fall Championships kicks off the fall season with a one-stop shop recruiting buffet at the pristine confines that is Grand Park outside of Indianapolis. The event, which features teams from the Midwest across each of the four high school classes, overlaps with the prestigious Puma Classic, a junior college tournament that brings in recruiters from all across the country. This year, more than 200 college coaches and professional scouts were in attendance in hopes of finding future impact players and prospects.

A number of the top prospects in Illinois, spanning all HS grad classes (2022s-2025s), were in attendance throughout the weekend, with a number of them standing out with their performance.

After breaking down the upperclass standouts at this tourney on Friday, we’re sharing with you our notes on some of the top Illinois underclassmen that we saw at this event. Our state was well-represented at the Midwest Fall Championships, so it was difficult to capture it all, but the PBR Illinois scouting staff, as well as national crosschecker Shooter Hunt, took in as many games, teams, and players as we could. We published our findings below.

UNDERLASS TAKEAWAYS

2024 PROSPECTS (LISTED ALPHABETICALLY)

+ Joey Barboza, SS, De La Salle, 2024
Barboza started at shortstop for the Chicago White Sox ACE and looked the part in all fascets of the game. Confident overall defender, smooth/athletic infield actions with easy range to both sides, paired with a strong/accurate throwing arm. Barboza profiles to stick at shortstop moving forward. Right-handed hitter with a confident presence in the box. Selectively aggressive, does not get cheated and took a number of intentful swings over the weekend. Barboza lined multiple hard-hit balls for singles late in the weekend against tough competition, including a highly-touted Midwest Canes team. With some additional strength, Barboza should profile at the top of the order at the next level. Standing at 5-foot-11, 155-pounds, Barboza has plenty of room for continued physical development and much more to tap into moving forward.

+ Cash Campbell, CIF, Montini Catholic, 2024
Uncommitted, 6-foot-1, 205-pound, left-handed hitter, has long been known for his prowess with the bat and nothing changed in this brief look. Campbell, playing for Cangelosi North, fits the mold of a middle of the order bat, has a mature approach in the box, especially with two strikes. Sees the ball deep, stays quiet and calm in the box and is extremely comfortable driving the ball to the opposite field. Campbell stays within himself and uses his strong, quick wrists to generate easy thump off the barrel. Campbell drove a fly out to left that chased the left fielder back, despite a strong wind blowing in. Follow left-handed hitter in the 2024 class. 

+ Samuel Chapman, OF, Woodstock, 2024
Uncommitted, 6-foot-1, 160-pound, long, athletically-built, left-handed hitting outfielder. Plenty of room for continued physical development. Has been a standout at a number of events in the past and is currently ranked No. 262 in the National rankings. Athletic look in the box, quiet pre-pitch rhythm with minimal wasted movement. Hands work loose and quick, direct to the ball and stays flat through the zone. High-offensive upside. Also, showed off a big arm from right field throwing a strike to third base in-game for Top Tier North. Quick release and strong true arm that played with life and carry. High-ceiling left-handed hitting outfielder. 

+ Nick Drtina, CIF/RHP, Nazareth, 2024
Louisville commit. 6-foot-2, 175-pound, broad-shouldered, well-proportioned, athletic build. Got the start on the mound for Cangelosi North. Arm plays compact and easy out of a high ¾ slot. Fastball sat 82-83 mph in the middle innings while mixing in a 10/4 breaking ball that flashed sharp bite at 75 mph (2173 rpm). Also, a highly-intriguing left-handed hitter. Aggressive approach in the box, showed strong hands and present bat speed. Bat stays through the zone a long time and uses the whole field. Stayed on top of the baseball and drove a line drive through the left-side of the infield. Advanced bat-to-ball skills with power likely to come down the road. One of the top 2024s we have seen to date in the state.

+ LHP Justyn Hart, LHP, Marian Catholic, 2024
From Shooter Hunt (National Crosschecker): Hart was a close follow, for me, coming out of the summer after a quality performance at LakePoint, and the athleticism and ease of the arm stroke continue to promise much more to come. He worked 81-83 with the fastball which included minimal effort from a ¾ slot, and showed impressive mound presence going up against a talented lineup. Repeating a simple delivery with ease, Hart was able to find a consistent slot on the fastball, and while the breaking ball is still developing, there is a chance he develops a firmer slider to tunnel the fastball in the near future. 

+ Sir Jamison Jones, C, St. Rita, 2024
6-foot-1, 195-pound, wide-shouldered, physical, right-handed catcher stood out a number of times this summer for the Chicago White Sox ACE and did so once again at the PBR Fall Championship. Offensively, makes the wood bat look small in his hands. Stays short and simple to the baseball while still delivering some of the louder contact we saw all weekend from a 2024. Gap-to-gap approach, natural lift in swing and shows feel for the barrel. Defensively, continues to show improvements behind the plate, especially with his arm. Arm plays short and over-the-top; when at his best throws play true and downhill to the second base bag. Advanced hands for his age; quiet, receptive, soft with the ability to present pitches in and around the zone. High floor/high ceiling potential right-handed hitter in the 2024 class.

+ Cooper Malamazian, SS/RHP, Nazareth
Malamazian is a loose-bodied, high energy player who had no trouble playing up a level with the Cangelosi Sparks 2023’s. The right-hander hitter found barrels all weekend with his loose/simple swing and looks to have plenty more in the tank. On the infield, Malamazian possesses mature/athletic infield actions and a strong arm to pair with his soft hands. Malamazian also is highly athletic; making a difficult jumping catch to save an errant throw and keep the runner at second-base. Defensively, Malamazian has the tools to be one of the better defensive shortstops in the class when all is said and done. He also saw time on the mound; clean/quick arm, he ran his fastball up to 83 mph and paired it with a sharp breaking ball in the upper 60’s. High-upside 2024 prospect.

+ Collin Mowry, C, Lincoln-Way Central, 2024
Playing up two levels, Mowry showed he was more than capable of handling his own against the older crowd, especially given the level of competition at this event. He’s built at a physical 6-foot, 195-pounds with evident strength throughout his body, particularly in the lower half. Mowry looked every bit the part of a middle-of-the-order bat, flashing clear impact potential off the barrel in the Sparks’ second playoff game on Sunday when he ripped a hard lineout to third base and also launched a deep foul ball beyond the left field fence. There’s easy bat speed and plenty to dream on with Mowry offensively, especially because he was playing up two levels in this tournament. Mowry also comfortably held his own behind the plate, handling two power arms with ease in Julius Sanchez and Alex Alberico on Sunday afternoon. Committed to Louisville, Mowry is amongst the top prospects in the Illinois’ 2024 class. 

+ James Novakovic, SS, New Trier, 2024
6-foot-1, 182-pound, left-handed hitting infielder, stood out playing for Top Tier North and hitting towards the top of the lineup. Has a fluidness to everything he does on the diamond. Athletic defensive actions, was comfortable playing on the move and can throw from multiple slots. Made a highlight-reel sliding play up the middle, flipping the ball to second base for the force out. Offensively, pre-pitch rhythm and aggressive swing. Path works uphill, selectively aggressive, heavy barrel at times and sneaky strength in swing. One of the better left-handed hitting shortstops we have seen to-date in the ‘24 class.

+ Mason Phillips, OF, Oak Park-River Forest, 2024
6-foot, 175-pound, highly-athletic, high-waisted, right-handed hitting outfielder. Started in center field and hit at the top of the order for Cangelosi North. Bounces around the field, light on his feet and speed (6.67 60 in the past) plays in game. Takes consistent, quality at-bats against velocity. Strong, athletic hands, short and quick to the ball and looks to control the barrel. Well above-average defensive center fielder. Quick first step and flashes elite closing speed. Also showed off a strong, accurate arm, firing a strike to home plate. Quality brief look at one of the top athletes in the class.

+ Khamaree Thomas, OF, Kenwood, 2024
5-foot-8, 150-pound, lean, athletic, left/left outfielder. Hit at the top of the order for the Chicago White Sox ACE. Prototypical leadoff type; controls the barrel, stays within himself, hands work on top of the baseball, uses the whole field and line-drive approach. Advanced bat-to-ball skills, twitchy hands and ball comes off the barrel harder than his size/strength would indicate. 6.92 60 speed seems to play up on the bases. Aggressive, instinctual base runner, looks to take the extra base. High motor 2024 to follow moving forward.

+ Charlie Vercruysse, INF/RHP, Normal University, 2024
6-foot-2, 175-pound, athletic, wide-shouldered build with plenty more physical development yet to come. One of the better two-way prospects we have seen to-date in the 2024 class. Got the start on the mound for GRB Rays Illinois at the event.

+ Jonah Weathers, 3B/RHP, Marian Catholic, 2024
6-foot-2, 165-pound, long-limbed, projectable, right-handed hitting, multi-positional prospect. Where he ends up defensively remains to be seen but his right-handed bat continues to catch eyes wherever he goes. Simple, highly-repeatable swing with excellent balance. Head/eyes stay quiet, lets the barrel work through the zone with ease and stays through the zone a long time. Whole field approach with advanced bat-to-ball skills. Seems to be on the barrel consistently. Defensively, has the actions and arm to play on the left-side of the diamond but is also athletic enough to profile in the outfield. Also, jumps on the mound and fills up the strike zone while pitching in the low-80’s. High-follow 2024.

2025 PROSPECTS (LISTED ALPHABETICALLY)

+ Xavier Crowder, SS/RHP, Montini Catholic, 2025
One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was when RHP/ATH Xavier Crowder (Montini Catholic) came out of the bullpen for Cangelosi Sparks North, playing up a class. Crowder, only a 2025, showed off elite arm strength making him a must know name, for those looking for some of the best crop of talent entering the high school ranks this fall. Crowder, an athletic, 5-foot-10, 169-pound, right-handed pitcher was generating extremely easy velocity working slightly across his body, with a clean, quick arm action. Early on Crowder was sitting mostly 84 mph, touching 86 but continued to get loose as his outing went along. Come his second and third inning Crowder was almost exclusively sitting 86-87 mph with his fastball getting a number of swing and misses towards the top of the zone. He went primarily fastball to start, flashing one breaking ball late in his second outing of work that showed slurvy shape and depth. Also, a highly-touted position player, whose position is still to be decided, Crowder looked the part in the box and running around the diamond. High-level 2025 prospect.

+ Ryne Dzierzynski, INF, Grant Community, 2025
Dzierzynski is an athletic, compact middle infielder with a confident demeanor in the batter’s box that complements his simple, rhythmic swing that he uses to demonstrate consistent on-the-barrel quality contact. At the PBR Midwest Fall Championships, Dzierzynski was all over the barrel, spraying line drives to all fields, all while showing advanced zone feel and pitch selection. It’s a balanced, fluid swing that he repeats well; he was 5-for-12 in Grand Park with a couple doubles, five RBIs, and he struck out just once – and he was 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts.

+ Ezra Essex, OF, Marian Catholic, 2025
Essex continues to look like one of the best defenders in the class. He’s highly athletic, equipped with elite speed, measured at a laser-timed 6.69 in the 60-yard dash this summer, he puts it to use while patrolling center field. Essex makes lightning quick jumps off the bat, routing accurately to fly balls. There were multiple hard-hit line-drives sent Essex’s way that he read perfectly and glided to, making them look like routine outs. Naturally, this kind of speed makes Essex a force on the basepaths. He takes aggressive leads with quick jumps off the pitcher; he was able to take the extra base on multiple occasions on balls hit to the outfield. He’s an exciting player to watch, capable of reaching another offensive level as he matures and adds the kind of strength it’d take to more extra-base contact. 

+ Andrew Kouris, CIF, Oak Park-River Forest, 2025
Kouris has a physical frame, listed at 6-foot, 185 pounds, with a sturdy/strong lower half that he uses to lift fly balls naturally from the right side, projecting for power potential long-term. As evidence of this, Kouris slugged a no-doubt homer to his pull-side on the last day of the tourney. His short, direct path to the zone should allow him to connect often enough to make frequent use of his inherent strength and uphill path through impact.

+ AJ Putty, CIF, Huntley, 2025
Putty has now made an impact upon our in-person evaluations this year in the winter, spring, summer, and now the fall. He looked very much like a future power bat to etch into the middle of a lineup, and he’s since continued to perform in-game, connecting for hard, loud right-handed contact with regularity. Putty is listed at a proportional 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, with budding strength in his hands and lower half that allows him to generate substantial bat strength from the box. He swings a fluid and rhythmic bat, attached to significant bat speed for his age, with advanced barrel feel. In Grand Park, he launched a ball to deep center field, off the base of the fence for a triple, providing us with the latest example of his offensive upside as he begins his high school career.

+ Karlos Otero, MIF, Romeoville, 2025
Otero looks the part of a compact middle infielder who offers up-the-middle upside defensively, while swinging a competitive right-handed bat that he sprays for shallow, all-fields contact. Otero’s footwork on defense is advanced, and he showed efficient and coordinated actions while receiving the double play turn from both second and shortstop. Otero operated at or near the top of Top Tier’s lineup at Grand Park, and he reached base five times in the team’s four games. Middle infielder to follow in the 2025 class.

+ Tanner Thomas, RHP, Arcola, 2025
From Shooter Hunt (National Crosschecker): The 5-foot-11, 165-pound right-hander also showed some impressive twitch and athleticism as a position player with bounce and a quick first step, but it was the ease of movement and the quickness of arm on the mound that really stood out in this look. Pounding the zone at 83-85 with a clean delivery, the ball jumped out of Thomas’ hand as he worked linear down the mound with quality extension out front. Even more intriguing about the upside than the presently advanced velocity of the heater, the young pitcher demonstrated impressive aptitude for spinning a breaking ball. Taking slider shape with tight spin at 70-72, the pitch exhibited the makings of a potential swing-and-miss offering in future years. Always a fan of athletes on the mound, Thomas’ speed stood out over the weekend, and there is a strong chance he continues to see consistent jumps in the future.

+ Peter Visconti, UTL, Warren, 2025
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound, right-handed hitter was hitting at the top of the Top Tier North lineup and is one of the better bats we have seen to date in the 2025 class. Visconti has a highly-repeatable swing, staying short and direct to the ball. Despite the compact stroke, he generates well above-average bat speed and the ball is loud off the bat. Visconti has a mature approach, using the whole field staying within himself and rarely chasing pitches out of the zone. Despite the quick look at Visconti, it reaffirmed his status as a high-follow bat in the 2025 class. 

+ Matthew Zebrauskas, MIF, De La Salle, 2025
Listed a long-levered, wiry 5-foot-9, 130 pounds, Zebrauskas is a high energy middle infielder with rangy actions on defense and a quick arm that carries across the diamond. He was responsible for several excellent defensive plays in which he moved fluidly to his forehand, funneling the ball efficiently to his release, unleashing accurate throws to first base from a rapid glove-to-hand release. His energy translates into the batter’s box, where he swings a loose, aggressive left-handed bat that generates some whip from a pull-side approach. Zebrauskas was 3-for-3 in his team’s final game of the weekend, with a pair of doubles.

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