Prep Baseball Report

2020 Overall Rankings: Illinois Representatives

By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

A week ago today, Prep Baseball Report updated and expanded its national list of the 2020 rankings. Within this post, we’ll take a deeper dive and explore the 17 Illinois representatives and their status as nationally ranked prospects.

Of the 17 Illinois members of the overall 2020 list, 13 are already committed to play at the next level. In the past few years, we’ve seen Illinois’ top prospects loaded with players from top IHSA 4A programs, and while this year is no exception, the first four names on this list come from non-4A schools. Saint Viator, Joliet Catholic Academy, and Carmel Catholic are the 3A schools featured in the top three, while Briar Stinson’s 2A Rushville-Industry rounds out the top four. You’d have to skim down to No. 5 to find the first 4A prospect on the list in 1B Drake Westcott, atypical of an Illinois class. After Westcott, the top 10 is dominated by powerhouse 4A programs, specifically those in Chicago’s Catholic League.


We’ll get to the names you’ve probably already heard of shortly, but let’s take a gander at four names you might not know -- yet.

Jack PaytonC / OF / Brother Rice, IL / 2020

Payton is one of two 2020 prospects from Brother Rice on this list. He’s a top 30-ranked catcher, nationally, in his debut on the 2020 overall board. Payton has attained a prospect status for his strong, physical build that pairs well with an athleticism that lends itself to above-average speed for someone his size and position. Payton’s demonstrated some serious pull-side power, too, and the skillset behind the plate to stick at catcher long-term, making him an exciting prospect, nationwide. He’s also one of the four uncommitted players on this list.

Payton Hutchings LHP / OF / Coal City, IL / 2020

We’ve discussed Hutchings’ ascent up the Illinois board previously here and here, so there’s only so much I can add. The lefty, Illinois commit debuts on the national 2020 board as one of the top 30-ranked LHPs. Though these rankings were established prior to the high school baseball season, Hutchings is off to an electric start for his Coal City squad and already has two no-hitters under his belt -- one of which was an immaculate 21-strikeout, seven-inning perfect game. He’s leapt from No. 25 to No. 11 on the in-state board because of the stuff that allows him to put up video game numbers like this, and could see his stock go even higher.

Eben Heine RHP / OF / Plainfield North, IL / 2020

Heine was another one of Illinois’ biggest risers from December’s update to now, and that’s reflected in his debut on the national board. He debuts on the expanded overalls in the top 300. He’s a two-way player but is most notably a prospect for his work on the mound. When we saw him at the Underclass Invitational, his fastball looked electric, topping out at 88 mph. He had the secondaries that commanded our attention, too, and it’s earned him a spot on the sophomore class’ overall ranks. Heine is also uncommitted.

Reece Lawler RHP / Warren, IL / 2020

No player from Illinois, not even Hutchings, leaped as high from his spot on the December rankings to his spot on April’s list. The hasty ascent has earned him a nod of recognition on the national board in the top 350, and he hurdled 15 spots up on Illinois’ board, too. We got a live look at Lawler in late February at the Milwaukee Preseason I.D. event. There, he showed us a dynamic athletic delivery with a loose easy arm. His fastball was firm and he commanded at times while it sat 85-87 mph. He’s also got a sharp curveball with depth and feel in his arsenal and a changeup that’s a work in progress. Lawler is verbally committed to St. Louis.  


All three of the players below have climbed up the 2020 ranks since we updated the list last week from December. These three have earned places on the national board in the past, but this time around, their prospect status has only increased.

Ben Wiegman RHP / 3B / Carmel Catholic, IL / 2020

Wiegman has had a seat on the board ever since the first edition of the 2020 rankings published in January of 2017. It’s easy to see why, with his 90-mph fastball that topped 91 when we saw him at the Underclass Invitational in February. Wiegman is the No. 3 prospect in Illinois and top-75 overall, ranked as the No. 16 RHP. His latest overall rank is up 29 spots from December, and his February performance went a long way in that rank up. Wiegman is a Louisville commit.

Marquis Jackson OF / 2B / Brother Rice, IL / 2020

Jackson is the other Brother Rice rep on this list, joining Payton. Jackson himself is up 33 spots since the last time the 2020 ranks were updated in December. Now, he’s  knocking on the door of top-100 status for the sophomore class. He’s a stout, athletic build with good pull-side power, equipped with a bat that is clearly his calling card. He’s got athletic actions in the outfield, too, which grants him big-time upside. Jackson’s committed to Oklahoma.

Ben Hernandez RHP / 1B / De La Salle, IL / 2020

Illinois’ new No. 9 is Hernandez, who’s up three spots on the in-state list and 68 spots on the national board, to top 175 overall. His ascent has a lot to do with the added easy velo he weaponized over the offseason. At the Underclass Invitational in February, Hernandez sat in the upper 80s and even topped 90 mph, up five ticks since we saw him last in September. He paired that fastball with a tight curve, and changeup with fading action that maintained good arm speed. Hernandez is committed to Illinois-Chicago.


It’s no big surprise, but Jack Mahoney and Christian Knapczyk both retain their ranks as the No. 1- and 2-ranked prospects in the state of Illinois.

Jack Mahoney RHP / SS / St. Viator, IL / 2020

Representing 3A Saint Viator, Mahoney debuted on this list only two editions ago, last May, so you have to keep reminding yourself the righty has climbed this high, this far, in such a relatively short period of time. Mahoney is committed to South Carolina and it’s clear they saw in him what we see: an easy, repeatable delivery that helps his fastball pound the strike zone in the upper-80s. That fastball has late life and sink to it, too. Mahoney also has a breaking ball and a changeup in his arsenal that he’s demonstrated feel for. He’s ranked inside the top 60 on the overall board because of polished traits like these.

Christian Knapczyk SS / 2B / Joliet Catholic , IL / 2020

Unlike Mahoney, Knapczyk has been entrenched on the prospect radar for at least a couple of years. He committed to Louisville before ever stepping foot in a high school baseball game. Knapczyk was on the first iteration of the 2020 overalls list from a year and a half ago and comes in ranked top 70, nationally, today. He’s a middle infield prospect with a compact swing and innate feel to hit. He’s also a natural shortstop defensively with a high baseball I.Q. and gamer type qualities. Knapczyk is a staple on Joliet Catholic Academy’s heavyweight roster.


There are still eight other Illinois prospects who achieved a ranking on the national board, so we’ll take a quick look here on what makes them so special.

+ Briar Stinson, Rushville-Industry: The no. 4-ranked Illinois prospect has been on each and every one of the 2020 overall updates. He’s got a tantalizing profile of power and athleticism for an outfielder. He’s committed to Kentucky.

+ Drake Westcott, Edwardsville: Westcott is the definition of the prototypical middle-of-the-order bopper. He owns some of the best power potential in the Midwest because of his thick, strong frame. He’s up a spot on the Illinois board, ranked No. 5. The first base prospect is committed to Louisville.

+ Ed Howard IV, Mount Carmel: Howard first debuted on the overall rankings last October for his primo athleticism and advanced defensive abilities at shortstop. He’s an Oklahoma commit who currently starts at shortstop for powerhouse Mount Carmel.

+ Alec Gonzalez, Mount Carmel: Gonzalez is a two-way prospect who’s seen his stock rise and dip with roller coaster-like peaks and valleys, but he settles in neatly near the top-100 overall on the latest update. He, too, is representing Mount Carmel on this list and has been a part of the overall rankings ever since the first edition of the 2020 ranks released. He carries a ton of natural athleticism and is smooth in the infield, the batter’s box, and on the mound. Gonzalez recently committed to Tennessee.

+ Noah DeLuga, Lake Zurich: DeLuga is the No. 2-ranked LHP in Illinois and a top-300 prospect in the 2020 class overall. He’s an uncommitted arm who we just recently saw up to 91 mph (post-rankings update) and a three-pitch mix he regularly finds the zone with. Expect DeLuga to make an even bigger push next update.

+ Jacob Mote, Normal U-High: Mote is the fourth and final uncommitted member of this list we’ve yet to mention. He’s a presently a middle infield prospect and a top-15-ranked Illinois prepster. Mote is 6-foot-3, 195 pounds but has played light on his feet which has made his defense at shortstop work. On offense, he makes hard contact consistently.

+ Trevor Davis, Danville: Davis has been a member of the overall sophomore ranks since last May. He’s shown us an excellent defensive skillset from behind the plate, time and time again. He’s regularly producing sub-2.00 pop times, too. He’s an Illinois State commit who’s also confident and fluid in the batter’s box with present bat strength.

+ Anthony Mangano, Lake Zurich: The Iowa commit debuted on the overall board last May for his violent, but controlled, hacks. He has a long, uphill swing path but he’s shown the bat speed to make it work. He’s a steady and clean defender, too, giving him promising upside.

CLICK HERE for complete 2020 Illinois Rankings.

CLICK HERE for the 2020 Overall Rankings Story.