Prep Baseball Report

Illinois 2020 Rankings Updated

By Andy Sroka & Drew Locascio
Illinois Staff

Four weeks ago, our staff wrapped up the Class of 2020 Showcase at The MAX in McCook, Ill., marking the end of the 2018 showcase season. Also, a number of various college showcase camps and fall events have concluded, providing us a last look at the state’s top juniors before we head into the offseason. Coming out of the fall season, we’re all set to reevaluate and update the class rankings, and we’ll start by taking a closer look today at the top-10 prospects in Illinois’ 2020 class.

It’s been over two months since we last revamped the Class of 2020 Rankings. We’re due for an update, especially after a busy late summer/early fall schedule that includes the PBR Fall Championships and the WWBA underclass tournaments – with a plethora of showcases mixed in between.

With that, let’s look at the revamped top-10 prospects.

At the top, retaining his No. 1 ranking in back-to-back updates, is SS Ed Howard IV (Mount Carmel; Oklahoma commit). Howard’s stock has been steadily climbing throughout the year and is showing no signs of slowing down. Howard continues to add strength to his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame, has been consistently barreling high-level arms and may be the best true shortstop in the Midwest.


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


Another shortstop, Christian Knapczyk (Joliet Catholic; Louisville), reclaims the No. 2 spot, the ranking he had for most of 2018. The dynamic left-handed hitter profiles as a prototypical lead-off man and spark-plug at the next level. Knapczyk possesses highly-advanced bat-to-ball skills, a keen eye for the strike zone, uses the whole field, and is adept at bunting for a hit aided by his ability to float around the bases. Defensively, he plays with bounce, is natural on the move, and has confident, soft hands with plenty of arm strength to stick at shortstop.

Jack Mahoney (St. Viator; South Carolina) is the top arm in the class and remains at the No. 3 spot. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound, Mahoney is a rare three-sport talent in today’s day and age with a high-level of athleticism and upside on the mound. The broad-shouldered right-hander has a clean, quick arm, and can run his fastball up to 90 mph with feel for a three-pitch mix.

Checking in at No. 4 is the state’s top-ranked backstop, the Louisville-commit Jack Payton (Brother Rice). We saw Payton a few times over the past several months at both the PBR Future Games, as a Team Illinois representative, and at the PBR Fall Championships. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound, strong, broad-shouldered catcher is just beginning to scratch the surface of his immense talent. Payton is an extremely quiet receiver and features soft, strong hands and has a knack for presenting borderline pitches as quality strikes. He also features a strong arm (79 mph from the crouch) and a physical bat that has middle-of-the-order potential at the next level. The arrow is certainly pointing up on Payton as his junior season is on the horizon.

Jack Payton (8.1.18)

OF Briar Stinson (Rushville-Industry) rounds out the top five. Stinson, a Kentucky commit, has been a mainstay in the top five ever since the initial 2020 rankings released, and for good reason. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound, physically-advanced, athletically built, right-handed hitter, arguably has the best bat in the class and runs a 6.78 60. Stinson has electric hands and features the rare combination and potential to hit for a high average and power at the next level.

A trio of right-handed pitchers, Ben Hernandez (De La Salle; Illinois-Chicago), Ben Wiegman (Carmel Catholic; Louisville) and Jack Crowder (Plainfield East; Illinois) take up the next three spots in the rankings. All three have physical frames and can run their fastball around 90 mph with regularity.

Jack Crowder (9.15.18)

Drake Westcott (Edwardsville; Louisville) and Anthony Livermore (Mount Carmel; Northwestern) close out the top 10. Westcott, a left-handed hitting first baseman, has the best raw power in the class. Left-handed hitting Livermore runs a 6.79 60 and profiles as a top-of-the-order bat. He is also a steady middle-infield defender who plays the game with a high-baseball IQ.

CLICK HERE for the complete Class of 2020 Rankings.