Prep Baseball Report

Illinois Class of 2019 Rankings: Final Edition

By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

Around this time each year, we publish – once and for all – the final edition of the latest graduating class’ player rankings. We last updated the 2019 board in mid-March, at the start of the IHSA spring season. Since the state champions have now been crowned, the MLB Draft took place and the PBR Illinois All-State Teams have been selected, it is time to adjust the rankings accordingly. 


The top-10 board features quite a few changes, including a couple of surging MLB drafts who saw their stocks rise throughout the spring, culminating in a top-10-round selection earlier this month.

We’ll start at the top, however, with the first prep arm selected in the 2019 MLB Draft: RHP Quinn Priester (Cary-Grove). The Pittsburgh Pirates used their No. 18 pick to call on Priester. The first-rounder finishes his illustrious prep career with the ultimate exclamation point. He came into the spring with first-round potential and really only solidified those hopes with his performance on the mound. Priester is already officially a member of the Pirates organization and should be making his pro debut some time soon.

1 Quinn Priester IL Cary Grove 2019 RHP Rd. 1, Pirates
2 Michael Prosecky IL Nazareth 2019 LHP Louisville; Rd. 35, Phillies
3 Kendal Ewell IL Marist 2019 OF Eastern Kentucky; Rd. 40, Rockies
4 Jason Hodges IL Marist 2019 OF Arkansas; Rd. 35, Reds
5 Matt McCormick IL St. Laurence 2019 C West Virginia; Rd. 40, Reds
6 Zachary Lee IL Effingham 2019 RHP Kentucky
7 Jalen Greer IL St. Rita 2019 SS Rd. 5, Athletics
8 Alex Helmin IL Providence Catholic 2019 OF Arizona State
9 Grant Leader IL Lyons Township 2019 RHP Illinois
10 Tyler Schlaffer IL Homewood-Flossmoor 2019 RHP Rd. 9, Cubs

Meanwhile, LHP Michael Prosecky (Nazareth Academy) finishes his prep career No. 2 on the state’s 2019 rankings for the fourth straight update. He, too, heard his name called in this month’s MLB Draft, in the 35th round, but he’s since announced via Twitter that he fully intends to fulfill his commitment to Louisville. So it seems like the Cardinals are going to be stocked with yet another one of the area’s best prospects in 2020.

We have a familiar face at No. 3, only it’s higher on this board than he’s ever been. Marist outfielders Kendal Ewell and Jason Hodges swap the Nos. 3 and 4 spots on the 2019 board in this final update. Despite their similarities – position, school, handedness, etc. – the two present different levels of uspide. Ewell is a tooled-up athlete who can run, hit, and hit for power, and his elite athleticism grants him some leftover potential to unlock at Eastern Kentucky. Hodges is a physical, strong right-handed bat with some of the biggest power potential in the Midwest. Ewell was selected in the 40th round by the Rockies while Hodges was taken in the 35th by the Reds.

C Matt McCormick (St. Laurence; West Virginia commit) and Zachary Lee (Effingham; Kentucky commit) are both back at the Nos. 5 and 6 spots in this update. McCormick became the first-ever two-time PBR Illinois Player of the Year after yet another terrific spring at the plate for the 3A runners-up St. Laurence, and was a 40th round selection by Cincinnati. Lee also continued to show off his live arm that helps produce consistent low-90s velocity, though he’ll refine his premium stuff in Lexington for the next few years.

St. Rita’s shortstop Jalen Greer dialed his game way up this spring, catching the attention of the pro scouting community, and it resulted in a fifth-round pick by the Oakland Athletics, and he’s already signed his first professional contract. Greer was ranked No. 24 in March’s update but he showed a premium all-around game for the Mustangs this season and it tempted the A’s to call his name in round five. He’s currently a member of the team’s Arizona League squad with four games under his pro belt.

Providence Catholic’s Alex Helmin, an Arizona State-committed outfielder, finishes his prep career ranked No. 8 on the 2019 state board. He’s been ranked on the top-10 in the last four updates and did nothing to considerably alter his profile over the spring, as he makes the trip to his new home in Tempe.

RHP Grant Leader (Lyons Township) is staying close to home, headed to Champaign after wrapping up his time at LT. The Illinois-bound right-hander is one of the most competitive pitchers in the state and is equipped with a live arm and went his entire career ranked inside the state’s top-10 2019 rankings.

Homewood-Flossmoor’s Tyler Schlaffer looked like he really turned a corner last fall and he’s only rocketed up boards since – including ours. He comes in ranked No. 10 on the final edition of our 2019 rankings. This spring, he regularly sat in the low-90s for long stretches, and was capable of touching 95 mph in front of our scouts. With that kind of arm strength, the MLB will be watching closely. Well, the Chicago Cubs decided to take a peek at their own backyard, and they liked what they saw. They called Schlaffer’s name in the ninth round, and he’s since officially signed on to become a member of his hometown team.


Apart from Greer and Schlaffer, there are a number of other prospects in this final edition who have earned additional recognition, as they’ve finished their prep careers on the highest of notes.

+ Hononegah’s big righty Tyler Statler is another former Illinois prepster to sign a pro contract, selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 14th round. The imposing 6-foot-6 righty has a hard, boring fastball that he can run into the low 90s. He comes in ranked No. 15 in the state’s 2019 class.

+ Pierce Jones (Marian Catholic) was also pried away from his commitment to Northern Illinois by his MLB aspirations. The toolsy outfielder really began to put his game together in his senior spring, and the San Diego Padres were the ones paying closest attention. Jones ultimately signed for the Padres after being selected in the 26th round, and he’s since made his pro debut in Arizona. He finishes his prep career ranked No. 23 on our board.

+ Up 25 spots, from No. 53 to 28, is Edwardsville right-hander Dawson Taylor. He’s a John A. Logan commit with premium arm strength, who we’ve seen up to 93 mph before. The added arm strength and more consistent offspeed, namely his biting slider, helped him make the big leap.

+ Justin Janas (Marist; Illinois) has been, simply, one of this class’ most consistent hitters. He’s a hulking first base prospect with a rhythmic left-handed swing with an adept feel for the barrel. He’s also pretty athletic for his size with sure hands at the bag. He finishes high school ranked No. 52 in the class.

+ Ranked just under Janas, at No. 53, is Prairie Ridge’s two-way prospect Ben Harris (Brewton-Parker College). He and the Wolves actually outdueled Priester in a Fox Valley Conference battle at the end of the regular season with a live low-90s fastball, but has also demonstrated to us a real feel to hit and some quickness out of the crouch as a catcher.

+ Edwardsville earned a state title this spring and RHP Matthew Boyer was a big reason why. The Saint Louis commit he’s a quick- and clean-armed righty with a feel to pitch in the upper 80s with consistency. He’s up 30 spots on our last 2019 update, sitting at No. 70 overall.


We also expanded our rankings to 300 in our last-ever 2019 rankings update, which helped 25 prospects earn a spot on the board for the first time. Here’s a few highlights.

+ LHP Ryan O’Hara (Glenbrook South; Illinois) debuts furthest up the board, all the way to No. 60. We caught him sitting in the mid- to upper-80s with his fastball this spring as one of the most out-of-nowhere unsigned seniors in the state. He’ll be in Champaign this fall.

+ Harvest Christian Academy’s Grant Young (Cornerstone) debuts at No. 106. He touched 89 mph, sitting in the 85-88 mph range, and he pairs his fastball with a sharp curve. 

+ At No. 142, Glenbrook South’s Brandon Matias had a spectacular spring at the plate. He earned Second-Team All-State honors this week and is still uncommitted. He’s proven himself to an interesting on-the-market bat this late in the recruiting process.

+ Plainfield Central’s RHP Zach Rana, an Indianapolis commit, was a reliable mid-80s arm for a team that upset crosstown rivals South in the sectional semis. 

For a complete look at the Illinois Class of 2019 Rankings, click here.