Prep Baseball Report

Initial Illinois 2021 Rankings Released

By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director

As the state’s top sophomore prospects prepare for their second seasons of their prep careers, it’s time to unveil the Illinois’ 2021 class rankings. It’s important to remember that the first iteration of a list like this is going to fluctuate as these sophomores continue to grow, mature, and develop. Regardless, as high-level prospects this age continue to pledge their commitments earlier and earlier, it’s time to reveal who the state’s top prospects are within the 2021 class.

After a stacked summer showcase season, we’ve gathered enough information to produce a list of the top-25 prospects in Illinois’ 2021 class.

CIF/RHP Vytas Valincius (St. Laurence; uncommitted), the state’s top-ranked sophomore prospect, has terrorized the Midwest this summer, substantiating himself as arguably the most advanced 2021 bat in the region. Standing in at a thick, strong 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Valincius has fleet feet for his size and is not just an all-or-nothing power bat. The physical right-handed hitter has a feel for hitting and loose, quick hands which generate highly-advanced bat speed. Last spring, as a freshman, Valincius hit in the middle of the St. Laurence lineup and alongside 2019 Matt McCormick, formed one of the best one-two punches in the state. Valincius spent parts of the summer with USA Baseball, making it to the second round of cuts with the 15U squad.

His role with Team USA kept him off the PBR Future Games Illinois roster, where he would have been the lone 2021 position player. His impressive hit tool – in all facets – is what separates him from the rest of this class. To top it all off, Valincius is also one of the most talented right-handed pitchers in the class. Last winter, he was up to 87 mph with an advanced three-pitch mix.

Vytas Valincius (6.19.18)

The next two prospects on the Illinois 2021 board are both already committed to Louisville: SS Noah Smith (Marist) and RHP Landen Looper (Lincoln-Way East). Smith actually committed to Louisville just under a year ago and has continued to ascend since. This past spring, Smith started on varsity for a Marist team that finished with 29 wins and was No. 9 in the final power rankings. Smith has all the tools to stick at shortstop as he climbs the ladder. The smooth athlete has advanced actions, soft hands, plays well on the move, and has easy arm strength. At the plate, has loose hands a gap-to-gap approach.

As for Looper, he has the bloodlines and the repertoire to be one of the state’s top sophomore follows moving forward. His physical, athletic, 6-foot, 180-pound frame is stocked with a quick, strong arm. In the Midwest Prospect League, in front of our national crosschecker Shooter Hunt, Looper sat in the mid 80s with minimal effort and flashed a sharp curveball with depth that has a chance to be a wipeout offering in the future. His size, arm action, and present arsenal alone make it easy to dream on the Looper’s ceiling.

After Valincius bowed out of the Future Games, RHP Brennyn Cutts (Toledo-Cumberland; uncommitted) became the solitary sophomore representative on Team Illinois. Next on the 2021 board, the 6-foot-3 righty is built strong and durable and possesses advanced arm strength. At the Underclass Games this past July in Chicago, Cutts sat in the 84-86 mph range with his fastball that featured heavy arm-side run. The arm works clean and quick and his curveball may have been the day’s best offspeed offering, too which featured tight spin and depth.

Brennyn Cutts (7.23.18)

INF/RHP Nick DeMarco (St. Charles North; uncommitted) rounds up the top five and he, too, beamed at Underclass Games in July. He was a two-way standout in Chicago but made the most noise at the plate, where he displayed a compact swing with present quick-twitch and bat speed. DeMarco’s advanced feel for the barrel might make his hit tool his best attribute, but he’s far from one-dimensional – he started in the infield as a freshman for a talented St. Charles North team that won 24 games. He’s also a reliable defender with fluid feet and a strong arm.

That same arm works on the mound in the form of a sinking fastball that sits comfortably in the mid 80s, reaching as high as 87 mph. Like the other pitchers mentioned above, DeMarco features a well above-average breaking ball, a sharp slider with feel. It’s a good thing he won’t have to make a decision on his permanent position any time soon.

Left-handed pitchers occupy the final four slots on the top 10: Ryan Kraft (Lincoln-Way Central; Indiana), Cory Ronan (Routt Catholic; uncommitted), Adam Dowler (Oswego East; uncommitted), and Cylis Cox (Staunton; uncommitted).

Ryan Kraft (6.6.18)

It's hard to say which of the four will be the best down the road, but it's hard to not pick Kraft. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound, highly projectable Indiana commit has a long, loose, easy arm, low-80s fastball, and a legitimate three-pitch mix. Ronan is a lean, high-waisted, athletic left-hander with a quick arm and fastball that was recently up to 85 mph at the Chicagoland Open. Dowler has a strong, extra-large 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame and one of the biggest upsides in the class. Cox, who hails from the southern part of the state, has been on the rise this summer. We have seen the 6-foot-1, 195-pound, wide-shouldered lefty up to 84 mph but there are multiple reports of his fastball being a tick or two harder.


1 Vytas Valincius IL St. Laurence 2021 CIF/RHP
2 Noah Smith IL Marist 2021 SS Louisville
3 Landen Looper IL Lincoln-Way East 2021 RHP Louisville
4 Brennyn Cutts IL Toledo-Cumberland 2021 RHP
5 Nick DeMarco IL St. Charles North 2021 INF/RHP
6 Tyler Fullman IL Marian Catholic 2021 RHP
7 Ryan Kraft IL Lincoln-Way Central 2021 LHP/OF Indiana
8 Cory Ronan IL Routt Catholic 2021 LHP/OF
9 Adam Dowler IL Oswego East 2021 LHP
10 Cylis Cox IL Staunton 2021 LHP


For a look at the top-25 board in full, CLICK HERE.