Prep Baseball Report

Underclass Invitational Showcase: Corner Infield Analysis

By Steve Nielsen
Scouting Director – Illinois/Wisconsin

The January Underclass Invitational Showcase was one of the best overall showings of young talent that this event has seen. After reviewing player videos, notes and stats we have compiled our lists of top positional players which we will unveil all week.

Today we look at the corner infielders. Quincy Notre Dame product Joey Polak stood out not only in stature but with his play on the field as well. Polak is a big 6-foot-4, 200-pounds who showed athletic feet defensively with an advanced arm and bat. Polak is extremely impressive offensively for his age and is certainly a high follow in his class.

Here’s a look at the top corner infield prospects.

Top Corner Infielders

1.Joey Polak, 3B, Quincy Notre Dame HS, 2016
Physical specimen, 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, barrel chest, stronger lower half. Possesses big-time power, potentially best right-handed power bat in Illinois’ 2016 class. Hits from tall setup, creates leverage and torque in swing; features explosive bat speed, extension after contact, ball explodes off bat with backspin carry. Does not get cheated in box. Currently has pull-side approach; recorded 89-mph exit velocity.  Defensively, has arm strength, 82 mph across infield, good carry, ball stays on line. Reliable hands, moves well laterally for size, plays through ball well; if continues to grow, could move to first base. Wherever he plays, Polak’s bat will play in a big way at the next level.  Ran a 7.77 60.

2. Cooper Johnson, C/3B, Carmel Catholic HS, 2016
Among a talented crop of catchers in Illinois’ 2016 class, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Johnson may have distinguished himself as the top catch-and-throw backstop, and should quickly become one of the most coveted prospects in the Midwest. That fact became abundantly clear at the Illinois Underclass Invitational when Johnson broke the five-year event record by firing a 1.84 pop time. And that number was not an aberration. His other four throws were 1.87, 1.90, 1.93, 1.93. Those numbers were achieved without embellishment, meaning he stayed low until he received the ball. From the crouch, Johnson was clocked at 81 mph. Johnson continued to impress during bullpens, as he handles everything thrown his way with ease and maturity beyond his years. He has a durable frame and moves well laterally from the crouch. Johnson also showed his versatility at third base, displaying reliable hands, a quick transfer and carry across the infield. Offensively, Johnson hits from a balanced setup, shows good rhythm and quiet overall mechanics. Bat speed is present, 85-mph exit velocity, gets excellent extension after contact, maintains balance throughout. 

3. Mitch Owens, 3B, Moline, 2016
6-foot-3, 180-pound third baseman. Advanced frame, athletic build, sloped shoulders, shows strength. Defensively shows smooth actions, plays easy, natural instincts. Arm plays loosely, slightly longer, high ¾ slot, shows carry, 81 mph across the infield. Offensively hits from a balanced stance, short stride. Bat path has whip, stays inside the baseball, uses more upper body than lower body. 86 mph exit velocity, has power potential, his bat has the ability to play at a high level. Owens is one of the top prospects in the state, high ceiling prospect.

4. AJ Lewis, C/3B, Mount Carmel HS, 2016
High-level catching prospect. Athletic 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame, wide shoulders, physically developed. All-around advanced set of tools. Advanced offensive prospect; simple, quiet mechanics yet creates explosive bat speed, tremendous barrel whip through zone. Simple, repeatable swing; short stride, minimal load, maintains excellent balance throughout, gap-to-gap approach, loose, athletic hands, stays flat through zone. Defensively, has extremely athletic feet, receives with confidence and maturity. Has quick, athletic transfer, good directional footwork, ball stays on line, accurate pop times ranging between 2.01-2.07. Registered 73 mph from crouch. Showed the athleticism and hands to play third base as secondary position, but no doubt will stick behind the plate. Ran a 7.09 60.

5. Josh Shaw, INF, Morgan Park, 2016
Lanky frame, slender build, room to fill out, 6-foot-1, 170-pound infielder. Defensively plays with soft hands, shows body control, uses his backhand well. Arm action is loose, has the ability to throw from multiple angles, high ¾ slot, accurate with occasional carry, 74 mph across the diamond. Shaw ran a 7.33 in the 60. Offensively hits from a balanced stance, flexed lower half, smooth traditional loading action. Produced consistent line drives, well above average bat speed, whip through the zone. High contact hitter, showed excellent barrel awareness.

Best of the Rest

Joseph Aeilts, C/3B, Champaign Central, 2016
6-foot, 170-pound catcher. Offensively this from a balanced stance, athletic setup, excellent balance throughout. Creates some lag in his barrel, bat speed present, 81 mph exit velocity from the tee. Defensively posted pop times at 2.10-2.22, showed arm strength out of the crouch, 74 mph, slightly longer arm action. Feet work sideways out of the crouch, lacks direction, can improve pop times immensely with improved footwork. At third base showed playable hands, above average body control, 74 mph across the diamond.

Jay Benard, 3B/RHP, Massac County, 2016
6-foot-1, 180-pound two way player, stronger build. Offensively hits from a balanced stance, strong hands, simple approach. Creates whip through the zone, bat speed present, some power potential. Defensively showed mechanically sound actions, fields out in front, typical hands. Arm action is long with occasional carry, 74 mph across the diamond. On the mound works from a full windup, high ¾ slot. Fastball has control, mostly straight, 75-76 mph. Curveball has action, above average depth, 64-66 mph, 12/6 shape. Straight changeup has occasional sink, 70-75 mph.

Jacob Chapman, 1B, Barrington, 2016
Wide shoulder, strong build, overall thick structure. 6-foot-2, 215-pound first baseman. Offensively this from a balanced stance, loose rhythmic setup, short stride. Shows above average bat speed, strong pop, physical swing, can get more out of lower half. 82 mph exit velocity. Defensively showed natural awareness around the bag, above average hands at first base. Long arm action across the diamond at 69 mph. Runs a 7.70.

Aidan Cossio, 3B/RHP, Bloomington, 2016
5-foot-11, 195-pound third baseman. Thick build, solid lower half, shows strength. Defensively shows well above average arm strength across the diamond (80 mph), works from a high ¾ slot, loose action, showed accuracy and carry. Hands play out in front, show reliability. Runs an 8.12 60. Offensively hits from a wide, crouched setup, uses leg lift trigger. Shows bat speed on a slightly uphill path, 86 mph exit velocity from the tee, flashes pop. On the mound delivery has effort, high ¾ slot, occasional arm speed. Fastball flashes late action, 81-82 mph. Curveball has 11/5 shape, 62-65 mph, thrown aggressively with arm speed. Also showed slider at 74-75 mph. Changeup had occasional action was able to keep down, 74-77 mph.

Jackson Dvorak, C/3B, Providence, 2016
Solid build, 6-foot, 200-pound catcher/third baseman. Offensively hits from a wider stance, shows bat speed. 82 mph exit velocity from the tee. Defensively posted pop times in the 2.21-2.30 range, short over the top arm slot, 70 mph arm strength out of the crouch, defensively sound mechanics. On the infield showed similar arm action from third base, 71 mph across the diamond.

Sam Fradin, 3B/RHP, Deerfield, 2017
5-foot-11, 165-pound athletic, lanky, two-way player. Defensively, who showed fluid footwork and above average body control. Arm works short and loose, from a high ¾ slot with solid carry at 75 mph with accuracy. Ran a 7.69 60. At the plate he hits from a balanced stance and maintains solid balance through contact. Swing is long, with an uphill path and generates quality lift. Exit velocity off the tee was 80 mph. On the mound he has a tall and fall delivery with rushed rhythm, clean lines and a square finish. Arm works short, from over-the-top. Fastball was 75-79 mph, flashing 80 mph, with slight run. Curveball was above average, with 12/6 shape and sharp action, sitting 64-66 mph. Showed advanced feel for his changeup, throwing it with fastball arm speed and sinking action at 71-72 mph.

Tyler Garrity, 1B/LHP, Plainfield North, 2016
6-foot-1, 170-pound left handed throwing two way player. Solid build shows some physical development. On the mound works from a ¾ slot, long arm action. Fastball has occasional run, showed control of the zone, 74-77 mph. Curveball has sweeping action, 10/4 plane, showed feel, 62-63 mph. Changeup has above average feel, showed command, flashed sink, 62-66 mph. Offensively hits from the right side, balanced setup, no stride approach. Hands work, above average bat speed, occasional lift, 81 mph exit velocity from the tee. Defensively showed solid actions around the bag, 70 mph arm across the diamond.

Jake Gilhaus, 1B/RHP, Normal Community, 2016
6-foot-1, 210-pound two way player. On the mound delivery shows balance and works online. Arm plays from a high ¾ slot, shorter loose arm action. Fastball is mostly straight, shows control, 78-79 mph. Curveball has 12/6 shape, some depth, 62-68 mph. Throws straight change, slightly decelerated arm action, 62-63 mph. Offensively showed some pop, 81 mph exit velocity. Showed natural actions around the bag, loose arm action, showed some soft hands, fluid footwork around the bag.

Cameron Hupe, RHP/3B, 2017
6-foot-1, 170-pound right handed pitcher. Athletic build, frame has projection. Tall and fall delivery, short stride, shows little effort, stays tall and on top of the baseball. Arm works out of a high ¾ arm slot, short arm action. Fastball is mostly straight, pulls to glove side, 80-81 mph, touched 82 mph. Secondary stuff still in developmental stages. Curveball shows 12/6 shape, lacks conviction, decelerated arm action 57-61 mph. Changeup has slight sink, 64-65 mph, shows occasional feel. Defensively shows arm strength across the diamond (72 mph). At the plate hits from a balanced stance, flat path, 78 mph exit velocity. Hupe shows promise on the mound, secondary stuff shows upside, has potential for big 12/6 curveball, high follow in Illinois’ 2017 class.

Michael Oh, 3B/RHP, Glenbrook South, 2016
Large frame, 6-foot-4, 265-pound two way player. Defensively shows nimble feet, fields the baseball out in front, soft hands, shows the ability to play through the baseball. Arm works loosely, high ¾ slot, with accuracy, 77 mph across the diamond. Hits from a balanced setup, smooth load. Simple approach, attacks the baseball, some lift, excellent bat speed. 91 mph exit velocity from the tee. On the mound fastball is mostly straight, 80-82 mph. Curveball has 11/5 shape, flashes above average action and feel, showed control, 67-68 mph. Changeup sits 74-76 mph with fastball arm speed.

John Rugen, 3B/RHP, La Salle Peru, 2016
6-foot, 200-pound two-way player. On the mound arm works cleanly from a high ¾ slot, long arm action, little effort. Fastball flashed running action, 77-78 mph. Changeup has sink, deceptive arm action, 70-73 mph. Curveball works on 11/5 plane, 64-66 mph, shows feel for the pitch. Defensively arm played at 73 mph across the diamond, shorter arm action, hands played well. Offensively hits from a balanced stance, short heel lift stride. 78 mph exit velocity from the tee.

Jake Zyzda, 3B, Barrington, 2016
Strong build, wide shoulder, physical infielder. 6-foot, 195-pound third baseman. Defensively showed above average hands, footwork is fluid, 7.50 runner. Arm plays with some carry, 76 mph across the diamond, high ¾ slot. Offensively hits from a taller, open stance, short stride back to even. Hits with rhythm and above average balance. 84 mph exit velocity from the tee. On the mound operates from a high ¾ arm slot, regular effort, flashes arm speed. Fastball has slight run, 80-81 mph, touches 83 mph. Slider sits 72-74 mph, decelerated arm action. Changeup sits 69-71 mph.

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