Underclass Invitational: Quick Hits

By Illinois Staff

On March 27, the PBR Illinois team hosted its annual Underclass Invitational showcase, bringing together a collection of the state’s best freshmen and sophomores in one place, The MAX in McCook, Ill.

Given that this event features some of the state’s best talent within its 2023-24 classes, the majority of performances we saw on Saturday are Quick Hits-caliber, so we attempted to limit the group below to the players who’ve continued to establish themselves as the best of the best in their respective class.

More players will earn shout-outs throughout the rest of the week inside our Statistical Analysis, TrackMan Files, and Blast Motion Board stories, but for now, here are the main highlights coming out of Saturday’s stacked underclass event.



+ The outfield group started the day on a high note and ended it as arguably the best positional group of the day. Some dynamic L/L outfield profiles led the group headlined by Kaden Griffitts (Williamsville, 2023), Frederick Ragsdale III (Lyons Township, 2023), Dennis Butler III (Simeon, 2024; Louisville commit) and Andrew Garcia (Depaul College Prep, 2023). All four showed centerfield potential running sub 7.0 60’s, led by Garcia’s 6.49, while Ragsdale likely showed the most comfortable and confident actions to rome gap to gap. Kaden Griffitts showed off the top bat in the group, putting together an impressive round of hard pull contact, he’s got some serious strong twitch to his swing with excellent feel for the barrel at the same time. 

The youngest of the group, 2024 Dennis Butler III, arguably has the highest ceiling with an intenful spray approach that hammered line drives to all parts of the field.

+ Louisville commit Trey Swiderski (Joliet Catholic, 2023) is one of the more physically impressive prospects in the 2023 class. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, he looks the part of an imposing middle-of-the-lineup bat, and swings it with similar intent. He finished the day with the top average exit velocity in BP at over 97 mph off the bat, topping 103.6 one one of the day’s best hit balls. He’s a power athlete who adds a 6.80 run time and 93 mph arm to his profile.

+ For a group of outfielders loaded with talent, Woodstock freshman Samuel Chapman (2024; uncommitted) may have walked away the biggest winner. A highly projectable, lean levered, 6-foot, 160-pound left-handed hitting outfielder, Chapman has a freshman frame to take note of before he even works out. His presence in the box was arguably his most impressive asset, it's  a mature spray-type approach with a ton of barrel awareness that is only going to get stronger. His outfield actions are just as athletic, with a plus arm for age at 91 mph.


After an impressive crop of position players, it’s safe to say the pitching stole the show. With over 20 pitchers topping at 85 mph or better from the sophomore and freshman classes. It was an eye-opening display of velocity from some of the best up-and-coming prospects around Illinois.

+ The hands-down favorite was the total package of Mississippi commit RHP Zander Meuth (Belleville East, 2023). At 6-foot-4, 170 pounds, the righty looks every bit the part of a frontline arm. He works clean and easy from a ¾ slot, surgically working through his ‘pen. Yes, Mueth sat an impressive 89-91 mph with little effort, but it's more than velocity that separates him from anyone else in the class. Mueth showed impeccable command of three plus pitches for his age that included a slider and changeup, invoking Executive Director Sean Duncan to compare his ceiling to the likes of a pair of big leaguers who passed through the early days of Prep Baseball Report events.

+ Three other committed arms in attendance proved exactly why they’ve already landed offers from the next level: RHP Ryan Hussey (Providence Catholic, 2023; Notre Dame), RHP Matt Sauser (Normal University, 2023; Iowa) and RHP Ryan Sloan (York, 2024; Wake Forest). All three have clear starter profiles at the next level with an advanced feel for multiple pitches, bordering on well-above-average command for their ages. Hussey spotted up a low-effort session, sitting 88-89 mph, touching 90. 

Sauser is a high-ceiling arm at a lanky 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, with a live arm who showed feel at the bottom of the zone with an above-average ability to spin to both of his breaking balls. His slider played best on this day, while both maxed out at over 2,300 rpm. 

Sloan, the youngest of the three, is a durable 6-foot-2, 187 pounds, with a heavy running fastball at 85-87 mph. He pairs it well with a sweeping slider and sinking change that both showed advanced feel at his young age.

+ Easily the top uncommitted arm in attendance, RHP Josh McDevitt (Effingham, 2023) put on an impressive display of arm strength and spin with pitchability. He’s a low-effort 88-90 mph, topping at 91.7, the day’s highest mark. While he showed plus arm strength for his age, his ability to spin may be his biggest separator. He showed two distinct breaking balls, highlighted by his curveball that has plus-type depth and spin, revving at 2,600 to 2,800-plus rpm, in the 73-76 mph range.

+ These two were among the most interesting left-handed arms in attendance: Luca Fiore (Nazareth Academy, 2024) and Vince Waterman (Homewood-Flossmoor, 2023). Fiore, while only a freshman, has a highly projectable arm action, working loose, quick, and clean. Fiore also had the top peak curveball spin rate for a 2024 on the day at a 2,488 rpm peak. Fiore ran his fastball up to 83 mph with a highly advanced four-pitch arsenal, too. Waterman has long been a southpaw primed for a velocity jump and he showed a 4 mph jump from last August to the Underclass Invitational. Saturday, he was up to 87.3 mph, averaging 2,452 rpm, and the fastball also averaged 17.4 inches of induced vertical break. Waterman also showed feel for a changeup, and given his loose, live arm action, he should see more velocity jumps down the road.


+ Cooper Cohn (McHenry, 2023) was one of the top two-way performers at the event. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound, catcher/pitcher has added quality strength to his frame and all of his tools have ticked up since our last look. As a position player, Cohn took one of the top BP rounds of all the catchers. He has twitchy, strong hands while staying short to the ball and long through the zone. Cohn works gap-to-gap while flashing occasional pull-side power. Defensively, every throw was 80-plus mph from the crouch, topping 85. That arm strength seemed to translate to the mound as well, where Cohn brings some dynamic arm speed that showed one of the better spin profiles of the event. He showed both a slider and curveball that worked consistently over 2,500 rpm with two distinct profiles to each offering. He peppered the bottom half with all four of his pitches while running his fastball at 86-87 mph. 

+ Colin Barczi (Naperville Central, 2023) has been a standout performer with an arrow up next to his name for the last couple of months and the trend only continued with his showing at the Underclass Invitational. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound backstop is an imposing right-handed hitter, and his physicality does not inhibit his foot speed, clearly, as he ran a 6.69 in the 60. He followed that up by matching the aforementioned Swiderski for the highest max exit speed of the event, measured at 103.6 mph, and also reached a 83 mph high from the crouch. Barczi’s right-handed swing stays inside the baseball and he hammered baseballs with authority to both gaps. A unique combination of physicality and athleticism, combined with highly advanced tools, have Barczi as one of the top 2023s on the market in Illinois.

+ Johnny Wendling (St. Laurence, 2023) made a strong impression at his first-ever PBR event. Wendling has a strong 5-foot-11, 200-pound compact frame and it directly translates into his right-handed swing. Wendling stays short to the ball, repeats his swing well, and generates easy bat speed and strength. Wendling routinely was on the barrel, driving the ball into the backside gap while covering both sides of the plate. Wendling recorded a peak exit velocity of 94.7 mph off the bat, and a 87.6 mph average.

+ Bryce Nevils (Brother Rice, 2023) continues to trend in the right direction, and he was one of the top receivers during bullpens. Nevils has soft hands, quiet actions and handled a couple of premium arms with ease. The 6-foot, 188-pound right-handed hitter has strong/thick legs and upside in the batter’s box. The swing is fluid, gets extension through contact and drives balls up the middle of the field. Nevils also ran a 7.14 in the 60, which was down from a 7.38 he ran last July.

+ Andy Roman (Wheaton Academy, 2023) continues to show some of the better raw power among uncommitted 2023 catchers in the state. Roman takes intentful/aggressive right-handed swings and leverages the baseball to the pull-side. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-handed hitter recorded a peak exit velocity of 98.7 mph with a max distance of 350 feet off the bat. He was also 79 mph from the crouch.


+ One of the biggest bright spots of the event was the amount of quality uncommitted left-handed-hitting infielders in attendance; Ryan Niedzwiedz (West Aurora, 2023), Adam Schilz (Warren, 2023), Justin Gorski (Rockford Christian, 2023), Savion Flowers (Kenwood, 2024), Ryan Nelson (Plainfield North, 2023), Joe Chiarelli (Downers Grove North, 2023) all took noteworthy rounds of BP and showed the potential and skillset to stay on the dirt at the next level.

The aforementioned Schilz and Niedzwiedz were on another level when it came to their left-handed bats. There are a number of similarities between the two; athletic frames with well-proportioned strength throughout, an advanced feel to hit with barrel feel and well-above average power potential. Both look like potent middle-of-the-order bats at the next level. 

Gorski plays with a bounce to his step. He’s a quick-twitch athlete and displayed advanced ability on both sides of the field. Offensively, he showed an aggressive, balanced, short swing with present bat speed. He barreled several balls to all fields showing gap-to-gap ability. Defensively, he has soft quick hands and quick feet, and his glove-to-hand exchange was ultra-quick which allowed him to stand out in the middle of the diamond. Gorski also ran one of the top times of the event, posting a 6.73. His tools, matched with his aggressiveness, made him one of the top performers for the day.

Flowers, the only freshman listed above, showed one of the higher offensive ceilings of the 2024s in attendance. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound catcher/infielder has a quiet, confident look in the box. It is a polished approach; stays within himself with a flat path, extension through contact and was consistently on the barrel while using the whole field throughout his round. It still remains to be seen where he will end up defensively but the bat projects to play wherever he settles in at.

There was also a collection of high-level right-handed hitting 2023 infielders in attendance as well. 

+ Colin Schmitke and J.R. Nelson are two Stevenson products who should be a mainstay on varsity for years to come. Both had some of the better infield actions on the day with the hands, feet and arm to stick at shortstop. Offensively, Schmitke showed a loose, aggressive swing and gap-type power while Nelson controls the barrel and sprays line-drives around the yard.

+ Three other 2023 left-side-of-the-diamond infielders with impactful right-handed bats were Tony Konopiots (Downers Grove North), Charalambos Nicoloudes (Naperville Central), and Cal Sefcik (Marist). Konopiots and Nicoloudes have wide-shouldered, physical frames, strong/fast bats and smooth infield actions that, given their advanced frames, could profile best at third base moving forward. 

Sefcik continues to add quality lean muscle to his 6-foot, 180-pound frame and showed an advanced combination of tools for his age; ran a 6.90 in the 60, was 89 mph across the infield, and registered a peak exit velocity of 99.6 mph during BP. Sefcik’s bat looks to be his calling card with the athleticism to play anywhere on the diamond.

+ There was also a strong crop of upside 2024 infielders to keep a close eye on moving forward; Cooper Malamazian (Nazareth), Eric DeCosta (Wheaton Warrenville South), Charlie Vercruysse (Normal University), and Jameson Martin (St. Laurence). 

Malamazian is now listed at a long, loose-levered 5-foot-11, 150 pounds, and he’s added about six inches to his frame since our last look. Malamazian has a smooth, fluid, easy look to everything he does on the diamond. It is a quiet, easy right-handed swing with present levers, whip and oozes upside. The same can be said for his defense where he roams with easy range, advanced body control and his arm plays loose, topping at 80 mph across. Also, ran a 7.19 in the 60.

DeCosta is listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, in a long-levered, highly-projectable, multi-positional profile. DeCosta came away as one of the biggest winners in the 2024 class. His right-handed bat is one of the best we have seen in the class to-date, and he has a high-floor/high-ceiling look to it. DeCosta controls his long-levers in his swing, staying short and level through the zone while repeating loud hard contact throughout his round. DeCosta registered an average exit velocity of 90.1 mph, and as he learns to elevate the baseball down the road, he could turn into a barrel aware right-handed hitter with big power.

INF/RHP Vercruysse is a 6-foot-2, 165-pound, high-waisted athlete who has upside to all parts of his game. Offensively, he creates leverage and jump off the barrel with his furthest batted ball recorded at 341 feet off the bat during BP. Vercruysse also ran a 7.11 in the 60, was 83 mph across the infield, and topped at 84 mph on the mound. 

Martin showed off a new-look switch-hitting profile (formerly a RHH only) to go along with fluid infield actions, something we have become accustomed to seeing. Martin looks natural at shortstop with easy actions, confident hands and is comfortable on the move.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the Underclass Invitational over the coming days.

CLICK HERE for the event page.