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Illinois 2022 Rankings: Newcomers


By Andy Sroka & Drew Locascio
Illinois Staff

On Tuesday, the PBR Illinois staff updated and expanded its Class of 2022 Rankings, and we expanded on our rankings update on Wednesday by detailing the Risers, prospects who climbed up the board.

Today, we’re wrapping up our ‘22 rankings coverage by assessing the new names to the top-175 board. Six of the top seven names who debuted inside this update attended this past summer’s PBR Future Games, including the prospect who is first appearing furthest up the board.

NEWCOMERS

Jayden Lobliner C / 3B / St. Charles North, IL / 2022

KANSAS STATE COMMIT

Our highest ranked Newcomer to the ‘22 state rankings is Lobliner, debuting at No. 15 overall. He emerged as an intriguing follow early this summer at the Fox River Open, and he parlayed that performance into an invite to the PBR Future Games, where he lit it up. He was all over the barrel at that event while also showing as one of the event’s top defenders behind the plate. Lobliner capped his terrific summer with a commitment to Kansas State.


Luke Adams 3B / Hinsdale Central, IL / 2022

MICHIGAN STATE COMMIT

Back in Illinois after a move to North Carolina, Adams gets to make his debut on the state’s ‘22 board after showing well within multiple PBR Tournaments, most notably at LakePoint for the National Championships. The physical 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-handed Adams hits from a polished approach, with the ability to punish balls into either gap. A sneaky athlete, especially for his size, Adams is a sub-7.00 runner with the athleticism to stick to third base – and he has plenty of arm for the position.


Nathan Hayes RHP / St. Charles East, IL / 2022

We’d heard some reports of Hayes’ exciting start to the summer, and we were able to get a first-hand look at the PBR At The Rock 16U tourney, where he was very impressive, sitting 85-88 mph, up to 89, with a wipeout breaking ball. That look was plenty good enough to earn an invitation to the Future Games, where he struck out five of the six batters he faced. At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Hayes is a high-level athlete with strength in his build, and he’s also the starting varsity quarterback at St. Charles East high school. He’s an upside arm with low miles on it, and he’s still uncommitted.


Grant Pohlman C / RHP / Carrollton, IL / 2022

Pohlman did well to land on our radar at the start of the summer at one of our Scout Day events and he continued to intrigue our staff since, leading to an invitation to the Future Games where he participated as both a catcher and a pitcher. Check out our scouting report from that event below: “Pohlman, also one of the three catchers for Team Illinois, threw the final frame of game two for Team Illinois. The 6-foot-1, 186-pound, strong-bodied, two-way prospect, showed off a clean arm, polished presence on the mound and spotted up his fastball to both sides of the plate. Ran his fastball up to 88 mph, sitting 85-87. Also, showed off two different breaking balls that he was able to land for strikes.. Curveball played at 71-72 mph, while his slider was 77-79 mph. Pohlman’s performance on the mound was one of the biggest eye openers for Team Illinois so far this week.”


Jackson Bessette C / South Elgin, IL / 2022

Yet another Newcomer who represented Team Illinois at the Future Games, Bessette debuts inside the top-50 after a sound summer. An injury cut his time at the Future Games event short, but he made the most of it by showcasing a strong arm from the crouch (topping 80 mph) with sub-2.00 pop times while being an above-average runner, and there’s strength inside his right-handed bat.


Eli Hill 2B / SS / Freeburg Community, IL / 2022

EASTERN ILLINOIS COMMIT

Hill, a recent Eastern Illinois commit, debuts at No. 58 overall on the ‘22 board after impressing the PBR Missouri scouting director at a St. Louis-area Scout Day event. There, Hill ran a 6.80 while displaying power potential from the right side in BP. His athleticism works on the middle of the infield and in center, which helped him land a spot this high up the rankings in his first-ever rank.


Grant Huebner OF / C / Edwardsville, IL / 2022

This Edwardsville prospect is one of several Southern Illinois-area prospects to make an impact statement inside our latest update. Huebner showed well at a couple different PBR Tournaments this summer, against quality competition at Creekside and LakePoint, earning a Team Illinois invite in the process. At the Future Games, Huebner showed well as an athletic outfielder who can also catch, with a well-rounded set of tools – a 6.92 runner who topped 89 mph from the outfield, 78 from behind the dish, and topped 93.6 mph off the barrel in batting practice.


Eli Hensley SS / 2B / Normal West, IL / 2022

One of the top prospects to come out of the Metro East Open, Hensley is a left-handed-hitting shortstop who projects well. He swings a fluid bat with loose hands that find the ball on plane and work through it. Defensively, his hands play soft with accurate throws across, and his confidence for the position is palpable.


Jackson Toberman C / Edwardsville, IL / 2022

The second Edwardsville prospect to debut in this update, Toberman was one of the top overall prospects at the Metro East Open. He swung a hot bat all summer and it’s become his calling card – a gap-to-gap profile with some pull-side power potential. And at 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, Toberman has an athletic, strong build to continue developing his game with.


James Vambaketes OF / LHP / Alton, IL / 2022

Vambeketes joins a fleet of debuting Southern Illinois prospects in this update, after strong performances at both the GBA Scout Day and GPA Games events. From Alton, Vambeketes is an athletic, high-waisted prospect with a left/left profile. His swing projects nicely, as it’s fluid and smooth. He has some two-way potential, given his strike-throwing abilities, quick arm, and athletic delivery that lives in the low-80s.


Frank Kelch C / Brimfield, IL / 2022

Kelch had been on our radar for some time now, and we were finally able to get a first-hand look at him at the Central Illinois Scout Day. Standing at a physical 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Kelch’s size leads to big arm strength that works effectively from behind the plate and on the mound. He topped 81 mph on his throws to second and sat 86-87 from the rubber. His strength works in the right-handed batter’s box, too, where he recorded a 90 mph high at the exit velocity station.


Brandon Bak LHP / OF / Plainfield North, IL / 2022

Bak popped at the PBR Midwest Fall Championships where he looked like one of the high-profile tournament’s top uncommitted performers. We had this to say about the left/left two-way prospect coming out of the event: “6-foot, 160-pound, high-waisted, athletically-built, two-way prospect; Could have been in the running for MVP of the weekend thanks to his performance at the plate and on the mound. At the plate, was locked in throughout the weekend. Pre-pitch rhythm, stays within himself and lets his hands work. Whippy, loose hands, covers the entire plate, uses the whole field and was on the barrel in seemingly every at-bat. Line-drive approach and feel for the barrel. Also threw a gem early in the weekend where he struck out 11 in 5.1 innings pitched. Follow 2022 two-way prospect trending up.


MORE DEBUTING PROSPECTS

+ Zack LaBrec, RHP, Cary-Grove: The 5-foot-11, 155-pound athlete has some two-way appeal, but has shown best on the mound where he’s been up to 87 mph with one of the class’ best sliders, a tight action breaking ball that spins at rates that have reached the 2,550 rpm range.

+ Ethan Willoughby, SS/3B, Maroa Forsyth: Committed to Illinois State, Willoughby is a projectable 6-foot-4, 170-pound infielder who looks like an upside defender. With fluid, rangy actions, he has demonstrated body control on the move inside his upside frame.

+ C.J. Byrdak, RHP, Lockport: Byrdak lands a spot on the rankings after showing advanced pitchability and a feel for four at the PBR Midwest Fall Championships. Our scouting report from that showing: “A 5-foot-11, 140-pound, wiry, right-handed pitcher delivered one of more dominant outings on the weekend in the 17U Championship game for the Cangelosi Sparks. Byrdak has a clean, repeatable delivery and advanced feel for what he is doing on the mound. Seemed to be toying with hitters at times, given his pitch sequencing. Four-pitch mix; can throw any of them in any count, makes his low-80’s fastball play up. Lived on the corners and at the knees throughout his outing. Understands how to land a breaking ball in the zone early in the count and expand with two strikes. High-pitchability 2022 right-handed pitcher with more velocity in the tank.

+ Corey Boyette, OF, Romeoville: A lean athlete at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Boyette offers a sound range of tools, with a simple, loose left-handed swing to go along with it. 

+ Jack Zebig, SS/3B, Marmion Academy: Zebig is a highly projectable prospect, at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, with athleticism and tools. A gap-to-gap, left-handed bat with strength. He’s a smooth defender, too.

+ Evan Jones, OF/RHP, Normal University: There’s some twitch in Jones’ right-handed bat, as it has flashed big bat speed that’s produced some hard-hit contact in our looks. His 6-foot-2, 183-pound stature is strong and there’s reason to believe he’ll continue growing into some power. He’s topped 89 mph on his throws home as well, and he’s also been up to 86 mph on the mound.

+ Will O’Gorman, LHP, Champaign Central: A projection prospect with an upside 6-foot-5, 195-pound build. O’Gorman attended our Central Illinois Scout Day, where he was up to 82 mph with a loose, quick arm.

+ Matthew Armstrong, SS, Normal University: Armstrong is another prospect on this list to have shown well at our Central Illinois Scout Day. There, he demonstrated a well-rounded toolset, as a 7.09 runner who was 86 mph across the infield. His right-handed swing utilizes the middle of the field well, with a lead-off-type profile.

+ Ryan Caccia, C, St. Charles North: Caccia is a raw athlete with upside as he continues to polish his game. He ran a 6.93 at the Chicagoland Open and recorded pop times in the 1.94-2.01 range, topping 79 mph on his throws through the infield. He’s shown the ability to make hard line-drive contact from the right side, too.

+ Joey Little, OF, Stevenson: Standing at an especially strong 6-foot, 195 pounds, Little makes loud contact from the right-handed box and it was enough to earn him a place inside the state’s top-100. During batting practice at our Underclass Games, Little recorded a max exit velocity of 95.1 mph, per TrackMan, and averaged an exit speed over 90.

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