Illinois 2020 Rankings Updated

By Dew Locascio and Andy Sroka
Illinois Staff

Baseball’s headed into hibernation. We hosted our final showcase of 2019 a couple of weekends ago and the major fall prep tournaments are behind us. Last week, our PBR national team updated the Class of 2020 overall board once again. Naturally, there is plenty of Illinois news and notes to glean from the national board, and many of the top prospects in the state factored in heavily into the national list.

So, with that, it’s time to unveil an updated look at the Illinois Class of 2020 Rankings. The top-10 remains largely intact with a few minor tweaks. The top prospect in the state is also one of the nation’s top prospects overall, shortstop Ed Howard IV (Mount Carmel; Oklahoma commit). A couple years ago, in October 2017, Howard debuted on the national board all the way up inside the top-100. His stock has continued to ascend since and Howard will enter the winter months as our No. 4 overall prospect and No. 1 high school shortstop in the country. Howard is one of the top defensive shortstops to come out of Chicago in recent memory and the bat has taken huge strides over the last few years.

Edward Howard (5.23.19)

You don’t have to skim too far down on the overall rankings to find Illinois’ next best name in the class, either. At No. 21 overall, and No. 2 in the state, RHP Ben Hernandez (De La Salle; Illinois-Chicago) has enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2019. He closed December 2018 as the No. 144 prospect in the country and propelled himself 124 spots ahead after a dynamic and explosive bullpen at one of our preseason showcases. Hernandez only solidified his status as one of the top righties in the nation throughout the spring, which earned him high-profile opportunities in the summer, where he continued to deliver. He’s hovered in that same top-20-ish ranking since. His changeup is premium, showing swing-and-miss sink and fade that he expertly works off his fastball that sits comfortably in the low-90’s. 

At No. 3 in the state and No. 72 overall is the dynamic left-handed hitting shortstop Christian Knapczyk (Joliet Catholic). Knapczyk, a Louisville commit, has never been outside of the Top-5 since the initial Illinois rankings release. Besides being highly-athletic and bouncing around the infield, it is his feel for the game and IQ that sets him apart from others his age. Knapczyk is always looking for an opportunity to steal outs defensively and take extra bases offensively. The more you see Knapczyk play the game, the more special and talented you realize he is.

Christian Knapczyk (7.9.19)

Another gifted athlete is RHP/SS Jack Mahoney (Saint Viator), who comes in at No. 4 in the state. Mahoney is a rare three-sport varsity athlete who continues to polish himself on the mound. The South Carolina commit has a clean, athletic arm and his fastball sat comfortably in the low-90’s all summer. Mahoney also flashes two above-average off-speed offerings, profiling as a starter at the next level. 

A trio of Louisville commits; C Jack Payton (Brother Rice; No. 5), 1B Drake Westcott (Edwardsville; No. 6) and RHP Ben Wiegman (Carmel Catholic: No. 8) take up three of the next four slots in the Illinois 2020 list. Payton is the best defensive catcher in the state and possesses a middle-of-the-order bat. Westcott, a left-handed hitter, is one of the most feared bats in the state and has been since his varsity season. Wiegman has a power arm (up to 94 mph) and has a 6-foot-4, 215-pound, workhorse frame. 

Sandwiched between the Louisville commits is RHP Jack Crowder (Plainfield East; No. 7). Crowder, an Illinois commit, has a physical 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame and has seen his fastball velocity climb over the past couple of years. Crowder will now consistently touch 94 mph, doing so with relative ease and has continued to sharpen and firm up his breaking ball. If he can turn his breaking ball into a swing-and-miss offering, Crowder will be one of the more highly-sought after arms by pro scouts this spring.

The final two Illinois 2020’s in the top 10; OF Briar Stinson (Rushville-Industry) and RHP/OF Isaiah Jackson (Champaign Central) remain uncommitted. Stinson decommitted this fall becoming the top unsigned senior in the state. The right-handed hitter has one of the top bats in the state with advanced plate coverage and power potential to all fields. He also, runs a 6.78 60 and is 89 mph from the outfield. Jackson is the tooliest player in the state and features one of the highest ceilings as well. Jackson is a 6-foot-5, 185-pound, high-waisted, two-way prospect who runs a 6.63 is 95 mph from the outfield and has touched 94 mph on the mound. Jackson should be a high-follow for pro scouts this upcoming spring.

Isaiah Jackson (7.9.19)


1 Edward Howard IV IL Mount Carmel 2020 SS Oklahoma
2 Ben Hernandez IL De La Salle 2020 RHP Illinois-Chicago
3 Christian Knapczyk IL Joliet Catholic 2020 SS Louisville
4 Jack Mahoney IL St. Viator 2020 SS South Carolina
5 Jack Payton IL Brother Rice 2020 C Louisville
6 Drake Westcott IL Edwardsville 2020 1B Louisville
7 Jack Crowder IL Plainfield East 2020 RHP Illinois
8 Ben Wiegman IL Carmel Catholic 2020 RHP Louisville
9 Briar Stinson IL Rushville-Industry 2020 OF
10 Isaiah Jackson IL Champaign Central 2020 OF/RHP


CLICK HERE for a look at the updated Top-300.

Stay tuned for more news and notes on the updated 2020 Illinois rankings in the coming days.