Illinois Senior Games: Quick Hits


By Illinois Staff

The sixth annual Illinois Senior Games came to Ozinga Field in Crestwood on Tuesday, Aug. 11. The invite-only event featured 80-plus uncommitted 2021s from around the entire state of Illinois. Today we take an early look at some of the notable performances from the day.

QUICK HITS

POSITION PLAYERS

+ 3B Andrew Jimenez (St. Charles North, 2021) has added impressive physicality to his frame since we last got our eyes on him. Jimenez, now listed at a physically-imposing, 6-foot-3, 205-pounds, put together arguably the most impressive showing on the day. The former team Team Illinois Future Gamer filled out the stat sheet during the workout portion of the event with a 6.70 mark in the 60-yard dash, 96 mph exit velocity off the tee, and he was 86 mph across the infield. During BP, he showed off advanced bat speed – an exceptional 79 mph high, according to Blast Motion – and he recorded the top average distance off the bat at 304-plus feet via TrackMan. The physical specimen carried his strong workout performance into the game, making a number of tough plays at third base and providing the hardest hit ball of the day. With two runners on, Jimenez lined a shot that drilled the top of the left field wall, resulting in a two-run double. He later would line a single to right field. Jimenez made a strong case that he may be the top uncommitted position player still on the board in Illinois.

+ Another physical third baseman who made a lot of loud contact on the day was Lake Park product Giacomo Fanizza. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound, right-handed hitter had the top average exit velocity during BP of the event, per TrackMan, at 93.3 mph off the bat. Fanizza also had an average distance of 300.72 feet during BP, second-best on the day. Fanizza closely trailed Jimenez in bat speed, with an excellent 77.5 mph high, but he stood out amongst his peers by striking the ball on plane at a greater rate than anyone else, allowing him to take advantage of his brawny bat strength. Like the aforementioned Jimenez, Fanizza carried his workout performance over to the game going 2-for-2 with a hard line drive single to left-field in his first at-bat and single to center field in his second.

+ OF Tyler McClure (Champaign Centennial) is an upside athlete in a highly intriguing 6-foot-3, 185 pound frame with plenty of room for continued physical development. McClure ran a 6.78 on Tuesday, among the day’s best marks, all while putting on an intriguing round of batting practice. Per TrackMan, McClure was most consistently on the barrel, repeating hard-hit line-drives up the middle on repeat, at an average of 90 mph. He also launched one ball 370 feet that left the bat at 94.1 mph, showing that there’s some additional power potential McClure can discover as he further develops into his frame.

+ Another upside athlete who possesses one of the more projectable frames in the class is 6-foot-3, 185-pound, high-waisted, loose-bodied, INF Nick Rodriguez (Bradley-Bourbonnais). Rodriguez showed easy defensive actions up the middle and ran a 7.27 laser-timed 60, down from a 7.57 that he recorded in October of 2019. Rodriguez has a simple, barrel-controlled right-handed swing and looks to be just scratching the surface of his high-ceiling.

+ Another loose-bodied infielder with easy actions and upside to his game was MIF Camden Karczewski (Joliet West). The 5-foot-11, 165-pound middle infielder showed athletic actions, body control on the move, soft hands, quick glove-to-hand release and the ability to throw from multiple angles. His arm has ticked up four mph since February of this year and he has the tools to stick somewhere on the infield. Offensively, the right-handed hitter stays within himself and sprays the ball around the yard.

+ MIF Evan Funkhouser (Edwardsville) has been on the rise all summer long and continued to show why on Tuesday. Funkhouser has added lean strength to his 6-foot, 175-pound frame and his right-handed bat continues to ascend because of it. Funkhouser takes an aggressive, intentful swing, stays through the hitting zone a long time and creates leverage to the pull-side flashing sneaky pull-side pop. Defensively, he has innate feel for the middle infield with a sure-hands, a high-level baseball IQ and advanced internal clock. Funkhouser made a diving play to his glove side and completed a 4-3 putout as well as making all the routine plays that came his way. The more you see him play, the more his understanding of the game and baseball IQ becomes apparent.

3B Jayden Gonzalez (De La Salle) was one of the more impressive infielders during the workout portion of the event. Gonzalez creates advanced bat speed thanks to his loose, athletic hands from the right side of the plate and despite his unassuming 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame, the ball jumps off the barrel. Defensively, he has the actions, footwork and hands to move around the infield but looked natural and comfortable at third base with smooth, fluid actions. 

+ St. Rita had a few interesting prospects join us on Tuesday and one of their go-to bats was among them: 1B Bobby Atkinson. The strong, compact 5-foot-10 first baseman wields a loose, easy left-handed bat off a natural uphill plane. Atkinson looks to leverage the ball into the air where he can best apply his inherent power potential. In batting practice, he focused on hard-hit line-drives and fly balls to center field. Atkinson also shows feel around the first base bag.

+ OF Camden Ruby (Oswego East) was one of the day’s most productive hitters, per Blast. He was behind only Jimenez and Fanizza in pure bat speed (76.1 mph), only his swings come from the left side. Ruby’s athletic hands in the batter’s box help him stay on plane at an above-average rate, and he gets the most out of his thin, lean frame, listed at 6-foot, 165 pounds. According to TrackMan, Ruby hit three balls over 335 feet, each pulled into the right-center gap. His farthest was struck 360 feet and left the bat at 93.5 mph. The Oswego East outfielder was among the day’s big winners.

+ OF Payton Matthews (Neuqua Valley) is a L/L athletic 5-foot-9, 175-pounder. He’s compact with some above average strength that mimics his swing in the box. Matthews gets an athletic bat wrap load that unleashes an intentful swing creating some hard line drive contact in BP.  He was an especially competitive at-bat during gameplay, too, including a double to right field. Matthews offers some big bat speed (73.8 mph) and he can drive some baseballs for his size, as he topped 93 mph off the barrel during his batting practice round. He moves naturally in the outfield as well and shows as a well above average defender there with enough arm (88 mph) to play any of the three outfield spots.

 + The Senior Games catchers were among the more impressive positional groups, and C Sebastian Cabeza (Kaneland) was one of its most impressive. Blast Motion does well to capture Cabeza’s fluid, simple right-handed bat and his athletic hands that consistently should allow him to barrel baseballs to all fields – and his 94 mph exit velocity off the tee was the best among the day’s backstops. He’s also a reliable receiver with quick catch-and-throw actions, and he topped 76 mph out of the chute.

+ From Minooka, C Hunter Ryan proved to be a huge winner on Tuesday, pacing his position in a couple categories all while taking a noteworthy, loud round of batting practice. Firstly, Ryan led all catchers in velocity from the crouch, at an advanced 82 mph that were also consistently on target with carry and life. He’s especially athletic for the position, too, as a 6.91 runner. His right-handed bat produced some aggressive lofted contact and he slugged five balls over 320 feet, per TrackMan.

+ Another backstop with all-around polish to his game is Daniel Contreras (Rockford Boylan). Contreras has a prototypical catchers frame, at a durable 5-foot-11, 195-pounds, with surprising flexibility in the hips. Behind the plate he is a quiet receiver who presents pitches well and is athletic and clean from the crouch. Offensively, the right-handed hitter, fits the mold of a middle-of-the-order presence. He possesses strong hands, is short and direct to the baseball and makes consistent hard contact to both gaps while flashing pull-side power potential.

PITCHERS

+ RHP Drew Burkholder (Eastland) got gameplay started off on the right foot thanks to a clean first inning of work where he struck out the side behind a lively fastball that was jumping through the zone at 86-88 mph. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-handed has a compact, loose arm that works out of a ¾ slot and he was able to work his fastball to both sides of the plate. His best offspeed offering looked to be a 76-77 mph changeup with hard arm side action that played well off of his fastball.

+ One of the biggest eye-opening performances on the mound came from RHP Crayton Burnett (St. Joseph-Ogden). The wiry 6-foot, 170-pound Burnett has long been an athletic right-hander that pitched in the low-80’s with feel for a three-pitch mix. That is no longer the case as he sat comfortably at 86-87 mph in his inning of work. What makes the velocity jump even more impressive is Burnett pitches with minimal effort and commanded the fastball to both sides of the plate and down in the zone. Burnett still has plenty of physical development to go and his velocity should continue to climb.

+ Will Morris (Plainfield South) and Drew Martin (Mt. Pulaski) are two upside right-handed arms with quick arms that run their fastballs into the mid- to upper-80s. Both sat 86-87 mph, topping at 88. Martin offers a finishing fastball that showed some ride through the zone. His live arm does not give hitters the chance to see the same pitch twice and got weak infield contact when he did find a bat. Morris punched out the side in his high energy inning of work. The Plainfield South right-hander threw exclusively fastballs with high effort and intent and earned several swings and misses recording three strikeouts.

+ RHPs Michael Rivera (Warren Township) and Ryan Smith (Nazareth Academy) both worked out as two-way prospects (RHP/INF) at the event but given their performances on the mound it would be hard to say their future’s at the next level would lie elsewhere. Rivera carved in his inning of work striking out the side with a fastball/slider combination that looked ready to immediately play at the next level. Rivera pitches with moxy and his athletic arm and tight breaking ball scream upside on the mound. The fastball sat 86-87 mph, too, per TrackMan.

Smith, who topped at 91 mph across the infield, continued to show off his advanced arm strength sitting 87-89 during his one-inning stint. Smith also spun a curveball at 71-73 mph with a top spin rate of 2,321 rpm, according to TrackMan. He worked an efficient clean inning striking out one and inducing a pair of ground ball outs to his shortstop. 

+ RHP/INF Rance Bryant (Bismarck-Henning-Rossville-Alvin) can really spin the baseball and was an impressive last-minute addition to the pitching rotation. In his inning of work, Bryant’s fastball averaged 80.6 mph, according to TrackMan, but played up with its above-average spin rate, topping 2,359 rpm. The 11/5 curveball effectively complemented the four-seamer, a tight 74 mph offering that spun at a 2,400 rpm average, though topped 2,600. Bryant is an athletic 5-foot-10, 160 pounds and brings some additional two-way appeal with him to the ballpark.

+ RHP Chris Jensik (Oswego East) worked a quick and purposeful inning. Jensik works with tempo and conviction as he attacked hitters with a riding 85-86 mph fastball and 12/6 curveball that tunneled well off the fastball. It's a short, over-the-top arm action that proved sneaky when paired with his 12/6 curveball. 

+ LHP Kade Walker (De La Salle) has some intriguing upside from the left side. At 6-foot-2, 165-pounds he offers hitter a deceptive knees and elbows delivery with long limbs. His arm plays loose and easy out of a ¾ slot giving him above average run to his arm side. Walker paired his 83 mph fastball with a slurve-type breaking ball that moved laterally across the zone earning him a pair of punchouts looking in his inning of work. 

+ LHP Charlie Cmiel (York) is a tough at bat on fellow left-handers. Cmiel creates a unique angle and showed ability in his short stint to fill up the zone. His fastball featured above average run and sink to compliment a sweeping breaking ball that played nearly 20 mph off of his fastball. Cmiel sat 81-83 mph with a low-spin fastball, averaging around 1,700 rpm.

+ RHP Will Frisch (Crystal Lake South) showed off one of the top fastball velocities of the day with his long loose levers working out of a high ¾ slot, sitting 83-85 mph, touching 88. He’s deceptive with long levers and works exclusively from the stretch and showed well when everything is synced up.

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