Preseason All-State: Quick Hits


By Illinois Staff

On Feb. 9, PBR Illinois hosted one of its biggest showcases on its annual calendar: Preseason All-State. This invite-only showcase brings together the state’s best talent in its 2021 class, and all that talent was certainly on display at The MAX over the weekend. Over 110 of Illinois’ best juniors made it to McCook on Sunday, many of whom remain uncommitted. Today marks the start of our post-event coverage.

This early on the calendar, it’s rare to find arms at or near mid-season form, but on Sunday there were a handful of arms that made big leaps since we’d seen them last. While Belleville East’s Drew Gray (Arkansas commit) reasserted himself as one of the top prospects in the state’s 2021 class with an impressive bullpen, there were a number of uncommitted prospects who propelled themselves up the rankings already this winter. 

RHP Tyler Conklin, from Kaneland, went from a righty from just outside the top-100 to one of the top uncommitted arms in the state’s 2021 class. He sat in the low-90s on Sunday and also mixed in one of the event’s best breaking balls. Dominic Guzman (Crystal Lake South; uncommitted) also broke out in a big way at Preseason All-State, reaching into the upper 80s in his debut performance at a PBR event. And there was also Libertyville right-hander Connor Lockwood (uncommitted) a wiry 6-foot athlete with high projectability, who threw one of the most complete bullpens at the showcase.

There were a lot of takeaways from Sunday’s invite-only showcase, even beyond the impact arms we saw first-hand. Check out our rapid analysis below to learn more, and stay on the lookout for our Statistical Analysis set to publish tomorrow with a more data-driven focus on the showcase.

CATCHERS

+ The catching group was one of the many highlights of the day, with five receivers dropping sub-2.00 pop times, including: Brian Rapanan (Warren; uncommitted), Hunter Ryan (Minooka; uncommitted), Michael Rastrelli (Mudelein; uncommitted), Tyler Pecson (Palatine; uncommitted) and Ty Batusich (Joliet West; Western Kentucky commit). Rapanan, Ryan and Rastrelli all showed 80 mph-plus arms out of the crouch as well and Rapanan also used his arm on the mound to deliver a clean bullpen at 85-86 mph.

+ Batusich, a Western Kentucky commit, has a strong arm and quick release from the crouch, resulting in one of the tightest clusters and more accurate arms of the day. Batusich had pop times ranging between 1.93-2.02 and his throws were consistently on the bag with carry. The physical Joliet West backstop was a standout at the Future Games last August with his left-handed bat and he showed it again on Sunday routinely making loud contact into the pull-side gap. He also posted one of the top exit velocities of the day with a 98 mph mark from the tee. 

+ Northwestern commit Alex Calarco (New Trier) took reps behind the plate on Sunday, but his most valuable asset he will bring to Evantson lies within his switch-hit bat. He stands out amongst his peers, thanks to his imposing 6-foot-4, 232-pound frame. His physicality shows up at the plate, where he has present power from both sides of the bat with natural lift in his swing and jump off the barrel. 

+ Daniel Contreras (Rockford Boylan; uncommitted) broke out a couple weeks back at our McHenry showcase, earned an invite to The MAX on Sunday, and performed yet again amidst an even higher level of competition at Preseason All-State. He swings a quiet, aggressive right-handed bat that produces hard contact with little effort. He also stays quiet behind the plate receiving where he showcased soft hands and an inviting target to pitch too. 

+ A top-20-ranked prospect in the state’s junior class, Mason Roehr (Granite City), a Missouri State recruit, exhibited some of the fastest, strongest hands at The MAX on Sunday. His right-handed bat gets through the zone with speed and strength that helps him create some of the state’s best raw power potential. He also has a chance to stick behind the plate where his hands and forearms allow him to receive pitches softly in and around the zone.

+ Another one of the handful of committed prospects in attendance, Xavier recruit Emmanuel Scott (St. Ignatius) proved, again, to be one of the best catchers in the state’s junior class. His wiry 6-foot, 175-pound frame elicits some physical projection for an athlete who already has a natural skillset, thus raising his own ceiling. He’s an advanced defender in all facets – he receives well, stifles balls in the dirt, and is accurate through the infield, and he also swings a smooth and fast right-handed bat.

RIGHT-HANDERS

+ RHP Connor Lockwood (Libertyville; uncommitted) was unquestionably one of, if not the, most polished arms at the event and became one of the day’s biggest winners. The loose-bodied, athletic, 6-foot, 150-pound, right-hander sat between 84-86 mph with his fastball. Lockwood has whip and life in the arm and with the ease the ball comes out of the hand it is easy to believe there is more in the tank. 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 suggest he has a starter profile at the next level.

+ Like Lockwood, RHP Tyler Conklin (Kaneland; uncommitted) buoyed his own prospect stock with a huge performance on Sunday. Conklin carries unassuming strength in his live 5-foot-9 frame and elevated himself into the group of top unsigned juniors in Illinois. Conklin came out hot, sitting a relatively easy 90-91 mph while adding a sweeping slider that played even better at 77 mph. Conklin's feel for three pitches and his compact repeatable delivery allow him to pound the zone giving him starter upside.

+ We can’t forget about 6-foot-3, 190-pound RHP Dominic Guzman (Crystal Lake South; uncommitted), either. His pop-up performance belongs right beside Conklin’s and Lockwood’s. Guzman is a projectable right-hander who ran his fastball up to 90 mph with his best secondary being a fading changeup that worked the bottom of the zone. Guzman’s breakout performance makes him a high-follow in the 2021 class moving forward.

+ RHP Tom Egan (Mount Carmel) is another former Team Illinois representative at the 2019 PBR Future Games, and he, too, impressed us again on Sunday. Egan has a compact, clean arm and was sitting 86-87 mph, touching 88 mph with relative ease and tilt at the bottom of the zone. Egan also flashed one of the best breaking balls at the event, a sharp slider with swing-and-miss action. Still uncommitted, Egan should play an important role for the Caravan this spring. 

+ Altamont’s RHP Bradin Baucum (uncommitted) is in the category of upside arms from Sunday. He offers a running fastball in the mid-80s that touched 87 mph, but his curveball is a true separator. At 75-76 mph, it acts sharp and late with 11/5 action.

+ At 6-foot-3, 175-pounds, O’Fallon’s Kaden Joggerst has a lean, upside frame that looks like it has plenty of maturing to go. The Missouri State commit, showed above-average feel for his secondary stuff, highlighted by his changeup he located well at the bottom of the zone. His slider plays short and late on a 10/4 plane, thrown aggressively at 74-77 mph, and it pairs well with his 84-86 mph fastball.

+ The Toledo-Cumberland tandem of right-handers Brennyn Cutts (Indiana State) and Brayson Shew (uncommitted) wield two of the better fastballs in the state. Cutts, a future Sycamore, mirrored the same arsenal he flashed in Georgia at the Future Games, including a 90-91 mph fastball with late, heavy action. As for Shew, he’s still on the market and is a 6-foot-4, 195-pounder who is capable of spotting up his 87-88 mph fastball in the lower third of the zone. With a slight crossfire delivery, Shew’s fastball has some deception and jump that could give it some added efficacy.

SOUTHPAWS

+ Southpaws Eric Orloff (Glenbrook North) and Drew Gray (Belleville East) separated themselves from the pack in terms of left-handers. Both touched 89 mph while sitting in the upper 80’s. Gray, an Arkansas commit, is a high upside arm, with a 6-foot-2, 175-pound, high-waisted frame and loose, fluid, easy arm action with more in the tank. Gray has a dynamic slider to go along with his lively fastball. Gray throws it with conviction and gets tight spin with late bite. Besides being one of the top left-handed arms in attendance, Gray stands out as a left/left outfielder as well; running a 6.85 mark in the 60-yard dash, topping 93 mph from the outfield and he has a loose, smooth left-handed swing.

Orloff is a sturdier build at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, and he’s added 10 pounds since the summer which has likely helped his fastball tick up in velocity as well. Orloff, still uncommitted, creates a tough look for the hitter, working across his body with a high-front side and creating a lot of angle to his fastball and changeup. Given the unorthodox delivery, Orloff repeats extremely well and threw a high volume of strikes with two secondary offerings with above-average potential.

+ LHP Jack Stellano (Reed-Custer) wasn’t too far behind the aforementioned duo. Stellano brought a hard and heavy fastball at 85-86 mph, topping out at 87. His changeup showed to be best secondary with a presently playable curveball. 

+ Jackson Kent (Lake Park) showed an uptick in velocity since we last saw the 6-foot-3 southpaw. Kent finished his session with an 86 mph fastball, sitting 82-85 mph throughout. He showed feel for all three pitches including a deep breaking ball at 66-68 mph.

+ Like Gray, Luke Trepanier (Manteno; uncommitted) is a left/left two-way talent who took reps from both the mound and the outfield on Sunday. From the rubber, Trepanier was up to 86 mph while mixing in a tight breaking ball, thrown with feel beneath the zone. He has a methodical, repeatable delivery, with a quick arm, that helps him locate. At the plate, he has a simple, barrel-control swing which helps him use the entire field.

+ Lucas Spence (Crete-Monee; uncommitted) is one to keep a close eye on this spring. Spence showed a lively arm from the outfield that played at 90 mph with carry and accuracy. That velo hasn’t quite transferred to the mound yet (ranging from 82-83 mph), but his breaking ball may be a big indicator for what’s to come. On Sunday, Spence, who has a live, twitchy-frame and quick arm featured a hard downer slider at 77-79 mph with 1/7 shape that looks to be a swing-and-miss offering.

INFIELDERS

+ MIF Chris Worcester (Lake Park; uncommitted) played with an extra bounce in his step, playing to both sides with comfort and athleticism. Worcester has soft, confident hands and flashed a quick release from multiple angles when needed. The right-handed hitter looks to elevate the baseball at the plate and packs a surprising punch in his 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame.

+ Daniel Mosele (Normal University; uncommitted) is a compact 5-foot-9, 160-pounds and fits the profile of a top-of-the-lineup second baseman. Mosele showed all the actions of a next-level middle infielder with a right-handed bat that is short to contact and sprays gap-to-gap. 

+ One of the top rounds of BP on the day belonged to left/left 1B Al Holguin (St. Rita; uncommitted). Holguin, who is also one of the top arms for the Mustangs, has loose, athletic hands at the plate with the physicality fit for the middle of an order. Holguin registered a 99 mph exit velocity off the tee and ran a 7.33 in the 60, which – given his position and 6-foot-2, 210-pound, strong frame – is impressive.

+ Matt Santarelli (Lockport) looks like he can stick on the infield moving forward. Santarelli plays light on his feet (6.97 60), maintains body control on the move and his arm plays true and accurate across the diamond. 

+ An upside infielder to keep an eye on is 6-foot-1, 155-pound Will Henson (Lane Tech; uncommitted). Henson still has plenty of room for continued physical development and was a smooth, steady defender on the infield that may profile at third base if he continues to fill out. Henson, a right-handed hitter, has loose hands and looks to stay inside the baseball.

+ Speaking of upside infielders, CIF Collin Callahan (Lake Zurich; uncommitted) has to be towards the top of the list. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound, high-waisted corner infielder ran a 6.94 60 and surprised with his body control on the move, given his long-limbed frame. Callahan has sure-hands and an accurate arm that played at 82 mph across. Offensively, the right-handed hitter creates leverage to the pull-side with more power to come.

+ Another two-way prospect who showed potential to stick at both moving forward was RHP/INF Michael Rivera (Warren). Rivera has a clean, athletic arm that was up to 87 mph on the mound and showed quick feet with easy range on the infield. Rivera’s hands played soft and he looks comfortable making plays on the move. His arm played at 85 mph across the infield and he ran a 6.87 to-boot.

+ Zachary Kim (Glenbrook North) showed off a simple repeatable swing creating easy line drives to all parts of the field. Kim also showed off his handiness up the middle of the infield to go along with a playable arm across the diamond. 

OUTFIELDERS

+ MaCallan Conklin (Normal University; Illinois State) showed a big arm and a sub-7.00 runner out of a 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame. A right-handed hitter, he showed some hard gap-to-gap contact with above-average bat speed.

+ Pittsburgh commit Nicky Giamarusti has turned his performances in the 60-yard dash into a must-see event. After topping not one but two sub-6.20, laser-timed marks in the summer at the Future Games, he recorded a 6.31 time on Sunday. He’s an high-end athlete at 6-foot, 185 pounds, who has quick twitch attached to his game. 

+ The top-three 60 times of the day all came from the outfield and, after Giamarusti’s event-best time, Quinn Willard (Cornerstone Christtian; uncommitted) ran a 6.59 and Missouri State commit Hayden Moore (Edwardsville) ran a 6.74. Both Willard and Moore showed that same quick footwork in the outfield and profile and could fit into center field defensively long-term.

+ Nashville’s Gavin Baldwin (uncommitted) is a physical 6-foot-3, 215-pounds and uses every bit of it at the plate. A right-handed hitter, Baldwin displays advanced pull-side pop as the ball jumped off his bat in BP. His 98 mph exit velocity ranked among the event’s best.

+ Wilken Benjamin III (Mundelein; uncommitted) is a highly-intriguing prospect in the outfield, he’s a long-levered athlete at 6-foot-4, 165-pounds and waiting to fill out. His swing is repeatable and flashed raw power with those same long levers. His 87 mph exit velocity is bound to spike with increased strength.

+ Crystal Lake South’s Nate Freeze (uncommitted) stood out at a PBR Wisconsin event in January and was back at the Preseason All-State to showcase his talents. He’s a switch-hitter with a fast bat from both sides of the plate and creates above-average bat strength as well. At 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, he’s both presently athletic and has plenty of space to add to his physicality.

+ Isaiah Thompson (Sacred Heart-Griffin; Indiana State) is an athletic left/left outfielder who has also showed some prowess on the mound. At Preseason All-State, Thompson ranged well in the outfield as an easy glider with soft hands and advanced actions. He ran a 6.93 and posted an 87 mph arm from the outfield while his swing repeated line-drive, gap-to-gap contact.

+ Left-handed hitting outfielder Braden Sayles (Hononegah; uncommitted) plays with an ease to his game and could profile at any three outfield spots thanks to his 6.82 speed in the 60 and his natural outfield actions combined with an 85 mph arm. At the plate, he has smooth left-handed stroke with minimal wasted movement. 

Stay tuned in the coming days and weeks as there were a number of deserving prospects who earned our attention, even beyond the names listed in today’s Quick Hits post.

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