Prep Baseball Report

Top-10 Stories of 2023: No. 1 Illinois Draft Recap

By: Pete Hamot
Area Scout, Staff Writer

Illinois has been a baseball hotbed for some time now with numerous players over the years being selected and eventually making an impact at the Major League level. This year was no different, with six prep players from the state getting selected in the MLB draft this past July. The class of 2023 as a whole was one of the strongest in recent memory, especially in Illinois, and the state was well represented throughout the entirety of the draft. 

Contine reading below to find out more about the Illinois prospects that got their names called this past July.

Illinois Draft Recap

The first Illinois product selected in the 2023 MLB draft was OF Dillon Head (Homewood-Flossmoor; Clemson commit), going to the San Diego Padres in the first round (No. 25 overall). Standing at an uber-athletic 6-foot, 185-pounds, Head has game-changing tools that should only continue to trend up as he develops physically throughout the coming years. Graded by scouts as an 80-grade runner, Head isn’t just blessed with elite speed, but he knows how to use it in-game; causing havoc on the basepaths with balls in play and stealing bases with ease. His speed also is a premium asset in the outfield, and his efficient routes/reads off the bat only make his speed play up even more. The left-handed hitter has well above-average bat-to-ball skills, primarily working to the gaps with the ability to use the whole field, but he’s shown flashes of his power to his pull-side with the ability to drive the ball that way. His high school season was what one might expect for a player of his caliber, being named PBR Illinois First-Team All-State with a .485 batting average, 10 doubles, two triples, six home runs, 35 runs scored, 15 walks to only five strikeouts and 31 stolen bases. Head has already seen some success at the professional level, hitting just under .270 in 105 at-bats so far, and you can expect that number to rise as he becomes more acclimated to the level of pitching he’s facing. 

(Dillon Head)

The next Illinois native to be selected was RHP Blake Wolters (Mahomet-Seymour; Arizona commit), getting his name called in the second round as the No. 44 pick overall. Equipped with an upper-90s fastball, it's not hard to see why scouts like the 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander. He set a Super 60 record over the winter for hardest fastball registered in-event, topping out at 97.7 mph on consecutive pitches, and his velocity continued to climb into the spring; topping out at 99 mph in front of our staff. He has confidence in a sharp low-80s slider that has the potential to be a true out-pitch in the future, and he also features a straight change in the 77-80 mph range with developing feel. One of the more eye-opening qualities of Wolters is his athleticism despite his size, creating efficient movement patterns down the mound that allow him to repeat his delivery and throw strikes consistently. This past spring, Wolters went on to be named the PBR Illinois Player of the Year after he posted a 0.43 ERA in 48.2 innings with a 7-1 record, 106 strikeouts and just 14 walks; also recording a .440 batting average with 10 doubles, nine home runs, 39 RBI and 24 stolen bases. Drawing comparisons to Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Bobby Miller (McHenry West, 2017) and fellow Illinois resident, Wolters will look to make a similar climb to the MLB as yet another power arm from the state. 

(Blake Wolters)

It didn’t take long for the next Illinois resident to be taken off the board, with RHP Zander Mueth (Belleville East; Mississippi commit) getting his name called at No. 67 overall. Listed at a long-levered 6-foot-6, 210-pounds, Mueth has drawn comparisons to fellow right-hander and southern Illinois native Tanner Houck (Collinsville, 2014) thanks to his power arm and lower release. Mueth has worked his fastball up to 98 mph in front of our staff, and regularly works in the mid-90s with all sorts of run to his arm-side. To pair off his fastball he goes to a sweeping slider in the low-80s with out-pitch potential. He can also turn over a changeup in the mid-80s with similar arm-side action to his fastball, giving him three quality offerings to work with. He moves exceptionally well down the mound which in turn helps him create his elite velocity, and there is likely more in the tank as he continues to fill out his frame. Now in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, Mueth will look to keep trending upwards and tap into his lofty ceiling. 

(Zander Mueth)

The first position player to come off the board from Illinois was OF George Wolkow (Downers Grove North; South Carolina commit), as he was taken by his hometown club the Chicago White Sox in the seventh round (No. 209). Listed at a hulking 6-foot-7, 237-pounds, Wolkow has an impressive build with clear strength throughout and round shoulders, though he still looks to have room to add on even more physicality in the coming years. His left-handed swing produces seemingly effortless power, creating exit velocities just over 100 mph with a max distance of 411’ at the Super 60 this past winter, and there’s still more power to come. He has shown well at third base in the past, but he profiles more as a right-fielder thanks to his above-average arm-strength (T92 mph OF). We also can’t ignore the fact that Wokow is a quality runner, recording a 6.75 in the 60 this past winter. As one of the youngest players in the draft, Wolkow still has a ways to go before he reaches his ceiling, but he has a chance to make a major impact on the professional stage when it's all said and done.  

(George Wolkow) 

The New York Mets went with INF Jake Zitella (St. Charles East; Illinois commit) as their 16th round pick (No. 486 overall). Zitella creates some intrigue with his physical right-handed bat, working his max exit velocity over 100 mph on multiple occasions in front of our staff (T104 mph). Listed at 5-foot-11, 195-pounds with strength throughout and broad shoulders, Zitella has a physical frame that should likely continue to trend up in the future. His aforementioned power is impossible to ignore, as the right-handed hitter creates loud contact regularly with an intentful and aggressive swing, working the ball with authority to his pull-side. He looks the part at third base with steady hands and a strong arm (T91 mph) across the diamond, and he also moves better than one might expect with a 7.00 in the 60. Zitella had quite the spring in 2023, earning PBR Illinois First-Team All-State honors after he hit .484 with 13 doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 39 RBI, 32 runs scored, 19 walks and just seven strikeouts. He’s currently stationed at the Mets’ rookie affiliate, and he will be looking to rise the ranks quickly with a big 2024 ahead of him. 

(Jake Zitella)

The final Illinois high schooler to get selected in the 2023 draft was RHP Dominic Voegele (Columbia), though he opted to honor his commitment to Kansas. Voegele was named PBR Illinois First-Team All-State this past spring after he pitched to the tune of a 1.04 ERA in 67.1 innings with a perfect 10-0 record and 111 strikeouts; he also turned in a .488 batting average with 20 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs, 51 RBI, 57 runs scored and 23 stolen bases. The multi-sport prep standout is a premier athlete, listed at 6-foot-2, 180-pounds with lean strength throughout. He creates a fastball up to 95 mph, cruising in the 90-94 mph range consistently while holding velocity throughout the game. The separator for Voegele is his knack to spin his breaking balls; with his knee-buckling curveball spinning over 2,800 RPM and his slider working over 2,600 RPM, both with late/sharp action and swing/miss characteristics. He can also go to a changeup in the low-80s with up to 17” of run at times to put another pitch in the back of hitters’ minds. Though he decided to pass on the draft this past summer, don't be surprised to see his name called once again in a few years.  

(Dominic Voegele)

Related Content