Prep Baseball Report

Inside The Illinois Rankings: 2021 Newcomers

By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director

Our coverage of the Illinois 2021 Rankings continues today with an in-depth look at the newcomers to the rankings. We’ve expanded our list from 175 to 250 adding more than 75 of the state’s top juniors to the board.

Remarkably, every player mentioned below is still uncommitted, meaning there are still plenty of high-level prospects to choose from in the Illinois 2021 class. The depth and talent in the class was evident over the course of the winter showcase season.

If you’re just checking in on the updated rankings, make sure to check out our update story on the top ten and our look at the top risers in the state. 


Our look at the top newcomers starts at No. 41 with RHP Connor Lockwood (Libertyville). Lockwood, made a big statement at the Preseason All-State, his first-ever PBR event and now finds himself in the Top-50 of the class. Lockwood impressed with his overall polish, advanced four-pitch mix and evident upside.  The fastball sat between 84-86 mph but given the way his whippy, loose arm works, it leads one to believe there is much more velocity to come once he starts adding quality strength to his 6-foot, 150-pound frame. Furthermore, he showed the ability to throw all his secondary pitches for strikes, including a tumbling changeup with swing and miss action as well as a high-spin breaking ball. Lockwood has plenty of maturity left to come, and both his polish and pitchability profile him as a starter at the next level.

Connor Lockwood

Another RHP who used the Preseason All-State for their breakout PBR performance was Bradin Baucum (Altamont; No. 51). The 6-foot-1, 175-pound, well-proportioned right-hander has a compact quick arm action and ran his fastball up to 87 mph but his curveball looks to be a true separator. At 75-76 mph, it acts sharp and late off an 11/5 plane.

Bradin Baucum

When it comes to position players, the two highest newcomers were C Hunter Ryan (Minooka; No. 58) and OF Nate Freeze (Crystal Lake South; No. 93). Both Ryan and Freeze used the Preseason All-State as a springboard as well. Ryan has a compact build with present strength and emerged as one of the top defensive catchers in the state. Ryan is athletic and quick out of the crouch and features a strong arm that played accurate at 82 mph from behind the plate. The switch-hitting Freeze fills out the uniform at 6-foot-3, 180-pounds and has made huge strides to his game in a year’s time. Freeze has a short quick stroke with emerging physicality from both sides of the plate with upside in the outfield. 


The next crop of arms all emerged at open events this winter and entered the 2021 rankings for the first time. Many of the arms listed below were going to be high-follows for our staff to crosscheck this spring during the high school season. 

LHP Evan Clark (Fenwick; No. 59) was arguably the biggest revelation at the Lockport Preseason I.D. The 6-foot, 160-pound left-hander started the day by showing off some arm strength in the outfield but did his most meaningful damage on the mound where he touched 89 mph right out of the gate. He works exclusively from the stretch and out of a ¾ slot that creates some tough angles as well. His fastball sat comfortably at 85-87 mph and showed a fading changeup at 73-75 mph as his best secondary offering. 

LHP Brayden Closs (Warrensburg-Latham; No. 81) was the top arm at the Peoria Preseason I.D. Closs, a wide-shouldered, 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, threw a polished ‘pen with minimal effort while displaying a true three-pitch mix. The fastball sat comfortably at 82-86 mph – up from 76 last year. Given the way the arm works and the big jump in velocity in a year’s time, there looks to be much more velocity in the tank for Closs.

Brayden Closs (2.26.20)

RHP Will Morris (Plainfield South; No. 91), was another big winner from the Peoria Preseason I.D. The 6-foot-5, 180-pound, highly-projectable right-hander, has made one of the biggest velocity jumps of any 2021 arms in the state this winter. Morris attended the same event a year ago where he sat 75-78 mph. This year Morris mostly sat 85-87 mph with his four-seamer, featuring late, hard-running action. Currently, Morris’ best secondary offering looks to be a mid-70s changeup with arm-side run and fade.

LHP Matt Porter (Crystal Lake South; No. 94) did his best work of the winter at the McHenry Preseason I.D. The event was Porter’s first and catapulted him into the Top 100. Porter works with an uptempo pace, quick arm and lively fastball that seems to play firmer than the 82-84 mph, touching 85 would indicate. Porter also displayed a sharp breaking ball that has swing-and-miss potential. 

Matt Porter (1.26.20)

Despite pitching at mostly 78-80 mph, RHP Joseph Crum (Springfield; No. 116), was one of the top arms for Springfield HS in 2019 as a sophomore, thanks to his pitchability and high-level competitiveness. Fast forward to the Libertyville Preseason I.D. and the upper-70’s fastball is now a thing of the past. Crum sat a lively 85-87 mph, showed feel for three at the event and now finds himself in the Top-125 of the class. 

Nick Walczak (Maine South; No. 127) is yet another arm who made his PBR debut this winter. Walczak earned the top pitcher spot at the February Chicago Preseason I.D. Walczak has an athletic, upside 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame, clean, quick arm and fastball that works 83-85 mph. Walczak paired it with a sharp, tight slider with sweeping action that was up to 75 mph. 

Nick Walczak (2.23.20)

RHP/OF Brady Wells (Libertyville; No. 130), LHP/1B Jack Bruington (Plainfield South: No. 133) RHP/SS Mason Telford (Streator; No. 135) all showed two way potential at events but their future’s could be brightest on the mound. 

Wells has made a big jump in velocity in a year’s time. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound, right-hander has added 20 pounds to his frame and touched 89 mph at the Libertyville Preseason I.D., six ticks harder than last winter. The ball comes out of Wells’ hand clean and easy, and with continued development of his secondaries he could turn himself into a high-follow in the 2021 class. 

Bruington, a 6-foot, 220-pound physically imposing left/left prospect may have the best chance, of the two others mentioned above, to stick as a two-way at the next level. Bruington has a strong left-handed swing that flashes pull-side power, feel around the first base bag and throws a high-volume of strikes with his fastball that sat 82-84 mph. 

Telford has a strong frame, quick arm and he showed hard action through the hitting zone with multiple offerings, including an 84-86 mph fastball and a 71-73 mph, 12/6 curveball, that may be a future swing-and-miss pitch.


3B Giacomo Fanizza (Lake Park; No. 108) did his best work of the winter at the Chicago Preseason I.D. The physical, wide-shouldered, 6-foot-1, 190-pound, right-handed hitter does not get cheated at the plate and looked to damage the baseball on every swing. Fanizza has a fast bat, present bat strength, looks to lift the baseball and made consistent, loud contact to the pull side of the diamond. Fanizza also ran a 6.98 laser-timed 60.

Giacomo Fanizza (2.23.20)

C/3B Josh Heyder (Washington; No. 124) has a prototypical, 6-foot, 210-pound catchers frame with a thick lower half and he made his statement at the Peoria Preseason I.D. in late February. Heyder showed clean, easy actions behind the plate and a big arm at 80 mph from the crouch and 88 mph across the diamond. At the plate, Heyder has a simple, strong swing and when everything syncs he flashes pull-side power.

OF Cole Luckey (Glenbrook South; No. 131) had one of the more impressive stat lines from the Illiana Preseason I.D. back in January. Luckey is listed at an athletic, 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, runs a 6.98 60, was 89 mph from the outfield and 95 mph off a tee. He also took a consistent round of BP where he showed off a loose, fast bat.


Tristan Samuelian (Burlington Central; No. 140)
Colin Brueggemann (Freeburg; No. 143)
Rance Bryant (Schlarman Academy; No. 145)
Danny Durkin (Andrew; No. 151)
Austin Murray (Lemont; No. 154)

CLICK HERE for the complete Illinois 2021 rankings.