Preseason All-State: Quick Hits

By Illinois Scouting Staff

On Feb. 10, 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 2020 class, and all that talent was certainly on display at The MAX over the weekend. Well over 100 of Illinois’ best juniors made it to McCook on Sunday, many of whom remain uncommitted. Today marks the start of our post-event coverage.

It’s unusual to see so many pitchers look this ready for the spring this early, but that was the biggest story coming out of the showcase on Sunday. No prospect in attendance had a better, more impactful, day than De La Salle’s RHP Ben Hernandez (Illinois-Chicago commit). There were a number of pitchers who demonstrated an uptick in stuff, but Hernandez is now commanding some national attention.

Elsewhere, versatile prospects like Tre Hondras (Homewood-Flossmoor; Michigan) and Andy Nelson (Wheaton North; Iowa) used their athleticism to bounce all around the facility last weekend. Middle infielder Anthony Livermore (Mount Carmel; Northwestern) continues to get better and makes it look especially easy on defense.

Aside from Hernandez, another one of the day’s biggest winners was Marian Catholic’s Dominick Angellotti (uncommitted), who took one of the day’s best and more eye-opening rounds of BP.

And, in his PBR event debut, the Louisville-committed 1B Drake Westcott affirmed himself to be one of the state’s top power threats.

Continue reading on below for complete breakdowns on the most interesting storylines and performances coming out of Sunday’s Preseason All-State showcase.


+ The biggest winner of the entire event was UIC commit RHP Ben Hernandez (De La Salle). Hernandez, listed at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, has continued to sculpt his frame and it has paid huge dividends. He’s extremely comfortable and confident on the mound, works with easy effort and controlled the zone with a fastball that sat 93-94 mph. It’s baffling, but it’s easy to imagine there’s plenty more in the tank given how easy and loose his arm works. Aside from the sheer impressive velocity, Hernandez showed a complete repertoire, which should elevate him as one of the top arms in the country. He has advanced feel for a power changeup with heavy run and sink and his curveball continues to sharpen up.

+ At 6-foot-7, 215 pounds, Clayton Johnson (Prophetstown; Illinois) was another big revelation on the mound. The recent Illinois commit controls his body well, given his extra-large, imposing frame, and has a loose, quick arm with more velocity to come in the future. On Sunday, Johnson sat 85-88 mph, touching 89 mph, with finish through the zone and showed confidence and feel in a changeup with swing-and-miss potential.

+ We’ve known Breck Nowik (Lake Forest) to be more of a position player in the past, but the 6-foot-2, 170-pound long-limbed righty made a statement on the mound Sunday. Since his last PBR event in August, Nowik raised his fastball velocity nine ticks to 88 mph. He utilizes a short, whippy arm action out of a ¾ slot and showed feel for a three-pitch mix.

+ Central Illinois featured three of the top right-handed arms in attendance: Logan Tabeling (Tuscola), Mason Burns (Normal Community), and Jack Feely (Normal University). Tabeling, a Wright State commit, has a confident presence on the mound with an easy and strong arm, and a fastball up to 88 mph complemented by one of the best curveballs on the day. Burns, now listed at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, has put on 30 pounds since last August and put together an advanced bullpen. Burns, uncommitted, has a loose, quick arm and throws with minimal effort. He pounded the strike zone and sat 86-87 mph with three above-average offerings. Feely, also uncommitted, has a live and easy fastball that was up to 88 mph with advanced feel for his changeup.

+ RHP Patrick Straub (Metea Valley) raised his stock as a potential back-end bullpen talent after his showing yesterday. The fastball velocity is up seven ticks in the last seven months, topping 89 mph with a changeup that dropped off the table. Standing at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, Straub has a super easy and quick arm action with deception in his delivery.

+ Creighton commit RHP Ryan Manikowski (Providence Catholic) has some of the liveliest stuff through the zone. The quick-armed, right-hander’s fastball was up to 87 mph with run and sink through the hitting zone, and he features arguably the best slider in the class. The hard-biting slider is thrown with conviction, has tight spin, and was up to 80 mph.

+ Miami (OH) commit RHP Ernie Day (Taft) continues to see his velocity and stuff tick up. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound live-armed right-hander touched 89 mph four times and 90 once. Day paired that fastball with two offspeed offerings that featured swing-and-miss action.

+ Isaiah Jackson (Champaign Central) is a one-of-a-kind athlete. At 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, Jackson ran an easy 6.63 in the 60-yard dash, threw it 92 mph from the outfield, and posted a 95 mph exit velocity from the tee. Jackson’s most upside, however, may come on the mound. His arm is electric and topped at 93 mph, with likely more in the tank. His offspeed and delivery still need refining but his ceiling on the mound may rival some of the best prospects in the class.


+ A couple of Big Ten commits, Tre Hondras (Homewood-Flossmoor, Michigan) and Andy Nelson (Wheaton North, Iowa) both showed multi-positional traits in the outfield and the infield and were arguably two of the better pure athletes in attendance. Both are plus runners at 6.60 and 6.61, respectively, and likely profile in centerfield. Hondras shows the potential to stick at shortstop as well, while Nelson’s arm played plus at 91 mph across the infield and 93 mph from the outfield.

+ The top 60 mark of the day went to Illinois commit Connor Milton (Champaign Central) at 6.51. His plus speed translates well to the outfield, and likely in center. He’s an athletic, quick-twitch athlete with quick hands at the plate that produces a short stroke.

+ Jack Lochner (Niles West) was one of the best left-handed hitting outfielders of the day. He wields a confident stick that is loose and quick with hard line-drive contact. His 6.74 speed is well above-average and likely profiles in center or left field.


+ Anthony Livermore (Mount Carmel), a Northwestern commit, continues to solidify himself as one of the top 2020s in the state every time he laces up the cleats. Livermore has the innate ability to slow the game down, range all directions with ease, and make tough plays look like a walk in the park. Offensively, he’s short to the ball, controls the barrel in the zone, and has present rhythm through contact. Not to mention he ran a 6.75 60-yard dash.

+ Nicholas Serr (Minooka) and Clay Conn (St. Charles East) stood out defensively and can easily stick up the middle moving forward. Both can flash the leather, have the ability to range laterally and get rid of the ball quickly with ease. Conn ran a 60 worth noting, clocking in at 6.74.

+ The Tennessee commit, Alec Gonzalez (Marian Catholic), was one of the more dynamic infielders in attendance. Gonzalez ran a 6.84 in the 60, topped 91 mph across the diamond, and registered a 92 mph exit velocity from a tee. Gonzalez has advanced defensive actions and can play on the move.

+ Antonio Brown (Vernon Hills) has clearly been working on his foot speed. The live-bodied spark plug increased his 60 finish from 6.94 to an impressive 6.61 over the past seven months, and has the defensive tools to stick up the middle of the diamond.

+ Dominick Angellotti (Marian Catholic) continues to fill out his already impressive 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame. His frame projects him to fill the hot corner, but his bat will keep him in any lineup. Angellotti repeated loud, hard contact to all fields with present bat speed and looseness in his hands.

+ Two Bloomington-Normal products, Jacob Mote (Normal U-High) and Sean Shook (Normal West), are also two of the best uncommitted infielders on the roster. Mote has advanced tools, ran a 6.75 in the 60, was up to 94 mph across the infield, and registered a 93 mph exit velocity. Shook won’t wow you with his tools but he had a solid all-around day. He has present bat strength and made a lot of hard contact from gap-to-gap. On the infield, Shook has soft hands, clean infield actions and plenty of arm to play the left side of the infield.

+ Two sub-6.90 runners who also swung impressive left-handed bats: Anthony Mangano (Lake Zurich; Iowa) and Brandon Micetich (Plainfield Central; Eastern Illinois). Mangano ran a 6.73 and has freel for the barrel while swinging with aggression. Micetich has continued to add strength to his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame. He ran a 6.88 mark in the 60 and has a handsy, strong swing.


+ Three left-handed hitting first baseman, Drake Westcott (Edwardsville; Louisville), Tommy Heideman (Normal Community; uncommitted) and Vincent Esposito (Rock Island; uncommitted), stood out with their physicality at the plate. Westcott has a quiet, easy, repeatable swing to go along with some of the best raw power in the class. Heideman emerged as a potential middle-of-the-order bat to follow moving forward. Heideman has natural lift in his swing and routinely made hard contact to the pull side. Esposito is another uncommitted bat who made a lot of hard contact with lift in his swing.

+ 6-foot-4, 215-pound 3B Cade Sullivan (Metea Valley; uncommitted) is a right-handed hitter with loose, strong hands at the plate and has the potential to hit for power in the future. Sullivan registered the hardest exit velocity of the day at 102 mph and was a steady defender on the infield with enough arm (85 mph) to stick to third base.


+ One of the top overall catchers of the day goes to Jack Kuchel (Sandburg). Kuchel took a big round of BP with feel for the barrel to go with a strong arm (79 mph) and a 2.02-2.12 pop time. On top of that, he ran a 6.94 in the 60, well above-average at his position.

+ Thomas Kenney (Warren Township) did it again with the bat. He opened our eyes at the Kenosha Preseason I.D. just a couple of weeks ago and did it in front of the Illinois staff this time. He gets to some easy right-handed pop producing one of the loudest rounds of the day. His 6.84 60-yard dash suggest he may be serviceable at more than just catcher at the next level.

+ Four catchers got to 80 mph or better from out of the crouch, including: Mike Schicker (Riverside-Brookfield; Purdue), Isaac Crabb (Harrisburg; uncommitted), Trevor Davis (Danville; Eastern Illinois) and Matthew Murphy (Notre Dame; uncommitted). Schicker led the way at 83 mph, and made it look easy, translating to the top pops of the day, besting at 1.94.

+ One of the more versatile athletes of the day goes to switch-hitting C/OF Cole Conn (St. Charles East). Conn ran a 7.05 and and showed above-average actions from both behind the plate and in the outfield. His arm plays well at both position and brings a line-drive, gap-to-gap approach to the plate.