Illinois 2021 Rankings Updated

By Andy Sroka & Drew Locascio
Illinois Staff

With the year’s 2020 events officially in the books, and showcase analysis and video published, it’s time to tidy up the state’s 2021 rankings. Around this time each year, we take a quick look at the rankings and make a typically modest amount of movement around the board following the handful of fall events we either hosted or scouted.

In Illinois, this update includes only a little movement within the state’s top-120 rankings, but we expanded the board by 26 names. We’ll break down some of the latest nuggets regarding the top players in the class, even if their ranking is nearly unchanged, and we’ll outline the new names to know debuting within this update, too.


+ While RHP Ben Hess (Charleston; Indiana commit) retained his No. 1 spot in the state, RHP Kaleb Applebey (Mt. Carmel; Wabash Valley JC) is gaining substantial steam. Applebey debuted at No. 19 in the last update and soon after we published it, we were able to capture a couple live looks at the hulking right-hander, including at the PBR Midwest Fall Championships. Applebey’s latest surge up the rankings pushed him inside the country’s top-200 and earned him a shoutout in this mid-November ‘Hotlist’

“A true late-bloomer in Illinois’ 2021 class, it took until the late summer and fall entering his senior year for Applebey to blossom into one of the state’s top prospects. The hulking 6-foot-7, 230-pound righty is hard to miss, but he still managed to fly under the radar until the tail end of this past summer. At August's Midwest Scouts Association Showcase in Kansas City, he propelled himself way up the Illinois board after sitting 88-91 mph, while exerting minimal effort in a dominant look. At the Midwest Fall Championships, he was a tick more firm in relief–touching 92 mph–with a slurve-type breaking ball he exhibited feel for, earning chases out of the zone. And by the sounds of it, Applebey only kept on adding velocity as the fall went on, reportedly reaching as high as 94 mph, gaining more and more interest from professional scouts in the process. He's committed to his hometown junior college, Wabash Valley, and is set for another substantial rise up the state rankings in the next update.”

Kaleb Applebey (9/19/20)

+ Another one of the state’s top-10-ranked prospects, LHP Adam Dowler (Oswego East), has graduated from this list as he intends to enroll early at Louisville, where he’ll be playing his college ball. Dowler was the No. 9 overall rank in the state last update, which allowed for the names immediately after him to move up a spot, landing RHP Zach Kempe (St. Charles North; Notre Dame) and OF Cameron Hill (Brother Rice; Purdue) in the top-10.

+ One name that’s jumped in between updates: LHP Grant Holderfield (Oak Park-River Forest; Indiana). Holderfield has long been one of the state’s top arms, but he was particularly good in September at the PBR Midwest Fall Championships. There, Holderfield sat 88-90 mph from a low ¾ slot with high spin, while also showing an advanced feel to spin a tight breaking ball that projects as a swing-and-miss type. He climbed 16 big spots inside this update.

 Grant Holderfield (9/12/20) 

+ Ranked No. 15 overall in the state, C Camden Janik (Wauconda; Illinois) continued to solidify himself as one of the top catchers in the class, earning a spot on PBR Wisconsin’s all-Upperclass team at one of its fall tourneys. His report from his performance at it: “5-foot-9, 195 pounds; compact, strong athlete who is committed to Illinois. Janik crushed two baseballs into each gap on Friday, both of which went for extra bases and then deposited a couple balls over the fence to make for one of the more productive stat lines of the weekend. Defensively, he's extremely reliable with leadership traits from behind the plate. He’s an all-around athlete that plays with a high motor and is a top-15 ranked prospect in Illinois’ 2021 class."

+ Hawaii commit LHP Cory Ronan (Routt Catholic) is an athletic left-hander with an upper-80's fastball and more velocity to come as he continues to add weight to his loose-limbed frame. The 6-foot-2 southpaw has been up to 88-89 mph in front of our staff with feel to spin.

+ C/1B Kyle Hayes (St. Charles East; Kirkwood CC) just continued to hit in the fall. He entered the summer in the top-70 and is exiting 2020 in the top-35 overall. Hayes helped his travel club win the upperclass bracket at the PBR at The Rock Fall Championships in Wisconsin at the end of September.

+ Up to No. 45 overall in the state’s senior class, RHP/INF Ryan Smith (Nazareth Academy) remains the top current uncommitted player in Illinois. Smith was ranked as the top overall pitcher at the Senior Games, with scouting reports published at the end of October.

Ryan Smith (8/11/20)

+ RHP Crayton Burnett (St. Joseph-Ogden) capped a string of strong fall performances with a commitment to Illinois. He’s repeatedly shown a high level of consistency and pitchability, with advanced feel for his sinker/curve mix.

Crayton Burnett (9/26/20)

+ LHP/OF Luke Trepanier (Manteno; Bradley) moves into his highest overall rank, at No. 62, following a strong late summer push that he reasserted at the PBR Midwest Fall Championships. It is hard to find clean-armed left-handed arms who sit comfortably in the upper-80's while featuring a three-pitch mix. 


Caden Leonard RHP / Lincoln-Way Central, IL / 2021


Leonard was arguably the ‘winner’ of the fall, as he entered it uncommitted and off the radar and he rocketed up the rankings, debuting just outside the top-50 in the state. He was excellent at the PBR Midwest Fall Championships and he committed to Kent State in October. Here’s a snippet of his scouting report from that event: 6-foot-5, 195-pound, athletically-built, strong, right-handed pitcher. Leonard came in out of the bullpen pumping fastballs in the upper-80s, touching as high as 89 mph. Leonard has low miles on his arm, which works clean and quick out front. The fastball was around the zone, works mostly straight with occasional boring action and finish through the zone. Went to the slider sparingly at 75-77 mph; inconsistent feel but showed late bite and depth. High-ceiling right-hander who will continue to see his stock rise as he shows improved repeatability and harnessing of his secondary offerings. 

Lane Funneman LHP / Pana, IL / 2021


The next highest debuting prospect is on the board following his work at the fall’s Unsigned Senior Showcase. He came away from the event as the top-ranked arm overall, and committed to Southwestern Illinois JC shortly after. Here’s what we had to say about the lefty immediately following the event: “... was one of the biggest winners on the mound. Listed at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds in a high-waisted frame, Funneman’s arm action is clean and easy, and he’s able to repeat it well. It’s a low-spin running fastball that sat 83-84 mph, touching 85, complemented by a tighter breaking ball with short bite, with spin rates averaging 2,500-plus rpm.”

Bryant Byrd RHP / Eldorado, IL / 2021


A strong and sturdy 6-foot, 205 pounds, Byrd was sharp in two looks this fall, both in-game and at the St. Louis Open showcase, hosted by our PBR Missouri colleagues. At a tourney at LakePoint in mid-September, Byrd sat 85-87 mph from a steep angle to home, and he reached 88 at the St. Louis event with an average spin rate of 2,424 rpm. Still honing the feel for offspeed, the peripherals and movement profiles are there to create the ceiling of a three-pitch mix in a starter’s frame. Byrd debuts inside the top-150, still uncommitted.

+ More uncommitted Newcomers to note inside this update: INF/OF
Sam Del Valle (Mount Carmel), C Gino Gazzillo (Mount Carmel), INF Sebastian Biggs (Providence Catholic), RHP Cade Landrus (Charleston), LHP Matt Nolan (Minooka), RHP Austin Bean (Grayslake Central), RHP/OF Marc Black (Springfield), RHP Payton Barton (Alleman), OF Joseph Forte (Conant), RHP Jace Phelan (Lane Tech), RHP Holter Gette (Batavia), RHP Zachary Porter (Lake Forest), INF Joey Rattin (Fremd), INF Blake Hickey (De La Salle), and RHP Aubrey Yarbrough (Kenwood Academy).


We covered a couple of the state’s ‘Risers’ within the top-75 or so above, but here are a few names further down the list who made some waves in this winter update.

Donovan McIntyre OF / Marian Catholic, IL / 2021


McIntyre has long been a lean, high-waisted, projectable left/left outfielder, with upside and he has added quality strength as of late which has translated to all parts of his game. The recent Kent State commit, stays short to the ball, controls the barrel and could profile in multiple spots in the outfield.

Will Henson SS / 2B / Lane Tech, IL / 2021


Still uncommitted, Henson ended up ranked as the No. 3 overall prospect at October’s Unsigned Senior Showcase. Here’s what our staff had to say about his performance there: Henson is a natural defender on the infield with well-above-average actions, and his hands played confidently while showing an arm that carries across the diamond, reaching 86 mph. Offensively, Henson hits with rhythm from the right side, and he stays short to the baseball with length through the zone while flashing bat speed. There’s upside to all parts of his game.


Conner Lutes RHP / Libertyville , IL / 2021


Lutes is a sturdy 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, who wields a mid-80s fastball that is complemented by its peripherals and his substantial extension down the mound. His fastball was up to 87 mph at an October showcase, flashing carry at an average spin rate of 1,973 rpm and average extension of 7.08 feet, helping further increase his perceived velocity. Lutes is still uncommitted. 

Matthew Rosenberger RHP / Glenbrook South, IL / 2021


Matthew Rosenberger: Another Unsigned Senior Showcase standout, Rosenberger has an upside 6-foot-3 frame that helped him reach an 85 mph high in October, with substantial carry through the zone. The uncommitted righty also utilized a power slider and straight change that each project. An upside, on-the-market arm to take note of headed into the offseason.


For a complete look at the updated Illinois Class of 2021 Rankings,
click here.