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Central Illinois Open: Catcher Analysis


By Illinois Scouting Staff

On Aug. 8, we hosted the Central Illinois Open in Normal, Ill., at The Corn Crib. There were over 70 prospects in attendance representing the middle of the state, one of whom has already committed to play at the next level, and there’s bound to be more from this group in the coming weeks and months.

Today, we’ll open our showcase analysis with a deeper look into the catchers who attended the Normal event.

We’ll start off by taking a look at a sophomore who came away from the event with some real buzz: Dieterich’s Matthew Hunzinger. This was our first look at the 6-foot, left-handed hitting backstop and he demonstrated some natural glovework from behind the plate in addition to a simple and easy stroke in the box. His bat is probably his best tool presently, as he sprayed hard line drives to all fields during batting practice, but his catch-and-throw skills aren’t far behind. This 2021 emerged from the Central Illinois Open as one to follow moving forward.

Another left-handed bat joins Hunzinger near the top of this ranking. From Brother Rice, senior Michael Hopkins edged out the rest of his competition with the quickest pop time in Normal last month. He, too, has a smooth line-drive stroke that gives him a well-rounded skillset of tools that could play well at the next level.

We previously published our Statistical Analysis from the showcase, but keep an eye out tomorrow when we continue our analysis with an examination of the event’s outfielders. For now, read reports on all 11 catchers from the Central Illinois Open.

TOP PROSPECTS

1. Matthew Hunzinger, C, Dieterich, 2021
6-foot, 145-pound, athletically-built, well-proportioned, left-handed hitting catcher. Balanced, slightly crouched setup, smooth load and short stride. Loose hands, easy effort, controls the barrel, short, level bat path. Line-drive approach, uses the entire field and makes a lot of hard contact. 76 mph exit velocity from a tee. Behind the plate, clean, easy, natural catcher actions. Quick, clean release, body control. Short, over-the-top arm action, throws clocked at 72 mph from the crouch. Pop times ranged between 2.19-2.25. 7.58 laser-timed 60.

2. Michael Hopkins, C, Brother Rice, 2019
5-foot-9, 160-pound, lean, athletically-built, left-handed hitting catcher. Offensively, athletic, balanced setup, smooth calm load, short stride and maintains balance through contact. Loose hands, level bat path, gets extension, line-drive middle of the field approach and fluid rhythm throughout. 77 mph exit velocity from a tee. Defensively, clean actions, maintains direction out of the crouch. Traditional catcher arm action, short and over-the-top. Throws topped at 73 mph from the crouch and pop times ranged between 2.14-2.22. 7.56 runner in the 60, laser-timed.

3. Danny Nuccio, C, Plainfield North, 2021
6-foot, 180-pound, athletically-built, right-handed hitting catcher. 7.18 runner in the 60, laser-timed. Offensively, wide, balanced setup, heel-lift stride and maintains balance through contact. Simple swing, line-drive approach and 77 mph exit velocity from a tee. Defensively, natural catcher actions, soft hands, clean exchange, clean footwork. Short, over-the-top arm action, accurate arms, flashed carry, topped at 77 mph from the crouch. Pop times ranged between 2.18-2.25.   

Best of the Rest (Listed Alphabetically)

Alec Akerman, C, Rock Falls, 2019
5-foot-9, 165-pound, right-handed hitting catcher. 7.15 runner in the 60, laser-timed. Offensively, balanced setup, pre-pitch load and long leg-lift timing trigger. Short, uphill bat path, looks to lift the baseball. 78 mph exit velocity from a tee. Defensively, wide setup, reliable hands, clean transfer. Short, high ¾ arm action and throws topped at 74 mph from the crouch. Pop times ranged between 2.29-2.37.

Max Herr, C, Champaign Central, 2020
5-foot-11, 175-pound, right-handed hitting catcher, well-proportioned frame. At the plate, balanced, quiet setup, slight load, toe-tap stride. Strong hands, occasional bat speed, pull approach, lift at times and 83 mph exit velocity from a tee. Behind the plate, long, over-the-top arm action, throws topped at 74 mph from the crouch. Pop times ranged from 2.37-2.47. 7.56 runner in the 60.

Leighton Rutherford, C, Olympia, 2019
6-foot, 188-pound, strong, well-proportioned, right-handed hitting catcher. Offensively, crouched, open setup, short stride and average balance throughout. Level path, line-drive approach, hard pull-side contact at times, present bat strength. 84 mph exit velocity from a tee. Defensively,  short arm action, ¾ slot and throws topped at 66 mph. 2.28-2.40 pop times. 7.51 runner in the 60.

Jack Schirpke, C, Normal Community, 2019
6-foot-1, 192-pound, athletically-built, left-handed hitting catcher. Offensively, balanced setup, short stride and average balance through contact. Short, level bat path, line-drive, gap-to-gap approach; 81 mph exit velocity. Defensively, long arm action, over-the-top slot and throws topped at 69 mph from the crouch. Pop times ranged between 2.22-2.35. 7.61 runner in the 60.

Michael Schroer, C, Bradford (WI), 2019
5-foot-9, 170-pound, right-handed hitting catcher, thick lower half. At the plate, balanced, tall setup, minimal pre-pitch load and varied stride length. Long bat path and pull approach. 75 mph exit velocity from a tee. Reliable defender behind the plate, soft, smothered block. Soft hands, clean exchange, works on-line. Short arm action, high ¾ slot and throws topped at 69 mph from the crouch. 2.26-2.39 pop times. 8.00 runner in the 60.

Brody Sexton, C, Bismark-Henning, 2021
5-foot-10, 140-pound, lean, right-handed hitting catcher. At the plate, balanced, closed setup,  short stride and average balance through contact. Long, level bat path and line-drive approach; 81 mph exit velocity. Defensively, steady hands, stays low out of the crouch, works on-line. Short arm action, ¾ slot and throws topped at 70 mph. Pop times ranged between 2.25-2.34. 7.64 runner in the 60.

William Wirt, C, Sandburg, 2019
5-foot-10, 165-pound, right-handed hitting catcher, wiry-strong. At the plate, balanced, athletic setup, smooth load and toe-tap stride. Fluid rhythm, loose quick hands, occasional bat speed, level path, natural lift at times and used the middle of the field; 86 mph exit velocity from a tee. Behind the plate, flexible hips, low target, natural catcher actions, soft, agile, easy block. Clean and directional out of the crouch and throws topped at 74 mph. Pop times ranged 2.25-2.32. 7.39 runner in the 60, laser-timed.

Drew Ziebarth, C, Normal U-High, 2020
6-foot-1, 205-pound, strong, muscular, right-handed hitting catcher. Offensively, open setup, long stride, gets back to square and average balance through contact. Long bat path, pull approach and strength through contact; 89 mph exit velocity from a tee. Defensively, reliable hands, clean transfer, throws across his body; short, loose arm action, high ¾ to over-the-top slot, throws topped at 73 mph from the crouch. Pop times ranged between 2.18-2.27. 8.03 runner in the 60.

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