Prep Baseball Report

Top-10 Stories of 2021: Illinois' prep talent makes for a bright future

By: Diego Solares
Associate Scout, Staff Writer

At the end of each calendar year, our staff reflects on the most interesting stories of the past year. Through the end of the month, we’ll be counting down some of the most impactful headlines that affected Illinois’ baseball community, ending with our No. 1 story of 2021 revealed on New Year’s Day.

The prep scene in Illinois has long been known as one of the strongest in the entire Midwest, but the influx of talent in our own backyard over the last few years in particular has taken things to a whole new level.

The Class of 2017 group featured two future first-round picks in LHP Reid Detmers (Glenwood; Louisville; Angels) and RHP Bobby Miller (McHenry; Louisville; Dodgers), and Mundelein LHP Brendan Murphy (Brewers) was a fourth round selection out of high school in his own right. A year later, OF Alek Thomas (Mount Carmel; Diamondbacks) and LHP Antoine Kelly (Maine East; Brewers) represented the 2018 grad class well, each earning top-65 selections in the '18 MLB Draft.

Bobby Miller (2017)

In 2019, RHP Quinn Preister (Cary-Grove) became the first Illinois high school player to be selected in the first round of the MLB Draft since Jake Odorizzi in 2008 when the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him 18th overall. INF Ed Howard (Mount Carmel) followed in his footsteps the next year when the Chicago Cubs took him 16th overall, and RHP Ben Hernandez (De La Salle; Royals) also earned a top-50 selection in the 2020 MLB Draft.

Ben Hernandez (2019)

As fruitful as Illinois has been for MLB scouts to watch over, the upcoming classes of 2022, 2023, and even 2024 already look like they contain must-see prospects with potential professional impact.

The Class of 2022 group features two players ranked inside the country’s top-35: LHP Noah Schultz (Oswego East; Vanderbilt) slotted at No. 16 overall and RHP/INF Owen Murphy (Riverside-Brookfield; Notre Dame) occupying the No. 32 spot nationally. Both only improved their draft stock over the course this past year, gaining momentum and buzz through the late summer and fall. Schultz and Murphy might just prove themselves to be worthy of an early round selection in the 2022 MLB Draft – maybe even on Day One.

Noah Schultz (2022)

The state's senior class has depth at the top of its rankings, making for a long list of players pro scouts need to check in on this spring, with 14 players ranked outside of the top two landing spots inside the top-400 on our national rankings. OF Brendan Summerhill (Whitney Young; Arizona) slots just inside the nation’s top-100 rankings, with OF Alex Stanwich (Lincoln-Way East; Tennessee), RHP Ethan Patera (Downers Grove South; Louisville), OF Jack Lausch (Brother Rice; Northwestern) and INF Estevan Moreno (Montini Catholic; Notre Dame) all inside the top-200, with 3B Luke Adams (Hinsdale Central; Michigan State) and RHP Ashton Izzi (Oswego East; Wichita State) lurking just outside that group. It’s an immensely talented collection of prospects, and one of the deeper classes our staff has seen in recent memory.

Estevan Moreno (2022)

Forecasting a bit further down the road, Illinois' Class of 2023 is hosting the No. 11-ranked player in the nation: RHP Zander Mueth (Belleville East; Mississippi). Mueth put together arguably the most impressive bullpen we saw all year at March's Underclass Invitational, showcasing highly advanced feel for a three-pitch mix with a fastball that touched 92 mph. The 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-hander popped up again at Grand Park this fall, impressing even more during an up-close look to cap our fall, further entrenching himself as one of the top junior pitching prospects in the country.

Zander Mueth (2023)

While Mueth has made headway as the top prospect in the state's 2023 class, the gap isn't as wide as it might have been in years past. Fellow juniors in the state like C Ryan Bakes (Huntley; South Carolina), RHP Parker Detmers (Glenwood; Louisville), and OF Dillon Head (Homewood-Flossmoor; Michigan) are each ranked inside the top-60 nationally in their own right and are fresh off productive summer and fall seasons. It’s the first time since 2014 that four Illinois prep players have found themselves inside the top-60 nationally, and the 2023 class as a whole features 19 players ranked inside our company’s top-500 prospects.

Ryan Bakes (2023)

The talent doesn’t stop there either, however, as the state’s Class of 2024 is led by 6-foot-7, 220-pound left-handed-hitting INF George Wolkow (Downers Grove North; South Carolina), who’s ranked No. 3 overall on our recently updated national board. Following Wolkow, and ranked inside the country’s top-75 players are INF Cole Crafton (Lincoln-Way West; Louisville), C/INF Collin Mowry (Lincoln-Way Central; Louisville), RHP Luke Oblen (DePaul College Prep; Louisville), and RHP Ryan Sloan (York; Wake Forest).

George Wolkow (2024)

Each of these grad classes figures to leave their own historical mark on the Illinois’ prep scene while paving the way for future successors in the process, and we’re eager to monitor their progress throughout their high school careers. For a full look at each of the Class of 2022-24 state rankings, continue on below.