The Inside Pitch

By Sean Duncan

Seven Illinois earn invites to Area Code Games

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Last August, New Trier outfielder Charlie Tilson blew up at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., going from a highly ranked player in Illinois to one of the most coveted high school prospects in the country. Eleven months later, Tilson was selected in the second round of the MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Who will be this year's Tilson in Illinois?

Seven Illinois players will have the opportunity to showcase their abilities on the national stage in early August, representing the Chicago White Sox team.

While the complete rosters have yet to be posted, we've learned who the representatives from Illinois are:

Brett Lilek, LHP, Marian Catholic HS: Lilek is the No. 1-ranked player in the Class of 2012, and at the Area Code tryouts, he showed why. The 6-foot-3 Lilek impressed with a 90-93 mph fastball, coupled with a low-80s slider. Lilek recently committed to Arizona State.

Jason Goldstein, C, Highland Park HS: Goldstein has established himself as one of the premier catching prospects in the country. Goldstein, who earned an invitation to the Aflac All-America Game, is a top-level defensive catcher who is also one of the state's best hitters. Goldstein is committed to Illinois.

Blake Hickman, C, Simeon HS: The 6-foot-3 Hickman has been one of the premier catching prospects in the country since his freshman year. Hickman has plus arm strength and is one of the more projectable talents in the country. Hickman is committed Iowa.

Ryan Borucki, LHP, Mundelein HS: The 6-foot-3, 165-pound left-hander has been one of the biggest risers this year. Long and loose, Borucki impressed at the Area Code workouts with an 89-91 mph fastball with late run and the ability to throw three quality pitches. Borucki is committed to Iowa.

Matt Schultz, RHP, Oswego East HS: The physical 6-foot-1, 205-pound right-hander has returned from Tommy John Surgery in a big way. Prior to his injury as a sophomore, Schultz was one of the top prospects in the class. Now back, Schultz has been consistently 91-93 mph with a fastball that has climbed as high as 95.

Kevin Ross, SS/3B, Niles West HS: The physical 6-foot, 200-pound Ross has all the tools. He has plus arm strength across the diamond, registering at 88 at a recent Prep Baseball Report event. He also runs a 6.84 60, in addition to showing big power at the plate from the right side. Ross recently committed to Michigan.

Ryan Perez, LHP/RHP, Westminster Christian HS: The 6-foot Perez is a rare talent, one who can pitch equally as well - and hard - with either arm. His fastball has been in the 88-91 range, while his curveball - especially from the left-side - is an excellent pitch.

- Sean Duncan is the publisher of the Prep Baseball Report

By Sean Duncan

The Class of 2011 is one of the best crop of baseball prospects Illinois has produced in a long time, especially in the Chicago area. With more than 150 Division I-caliber players, this class is remarkably deep and rich with high-level national talent.

Exactly how good is the Class of 2011? Well, it very well may be one of the best of all-time. A ridiculous statement, perhaps; but if the top players perform as they have proven in the past, the Chicago-area has the potential of producing several top-round draft picks come June's Major League Baseball amateur draft.

While it is impossible to predict what will happen in the coming months, there are two Chicago-area players who have been mentioned as top-round draft picks: New Trier outfielder Charlie Tilson and Downers Grove South right-handed pitcher Nick Burdi. According to Baseball America and several other national draft sources, both Tilson and Burdi have been mentioned as potential first-round picks. The 6-foot, 175-pound left-handed hitting Tilson is a top-level athlete who emerged over the summer as one of the premier high school outfielders in the country. Burdi, at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, is a power arm whose fastball has reached as high as 97 mph to go along with a developing hard slider that has climbed in the 87-90 mph range.

In addition to Tilson and Burdi, Hersey RHP Joe Perricone, Oak Forest slugger Tim Barry, St. Rita LHP Joe Filomeno, St. Charles East LHP Wes Benjamin, Mount Carmel LHP/1B Jeff Boehm, and Wheaton North 1B Jeff Schalk have also drawn considerable draft interest. Outside of the Chicago area, there are many others who have the potential of getting their names called in the earlier rounds of the draft. Perricone, an athletic 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander, seems to be the next in line in the Chicago area.

OK, for our purposes here, let's say that both Tilson and Burdi get drafted in the first two rounds, which isn't far-reaching at all. And two other players from Illinois are drafted in the top-five rounds. That would make the Class of 2011 the strongest in the last 20 years.
Some historical context:

The Class of 1997 was a strong group, led by Chatham Glenwood's Jason Werth (22nd overall), Joliet Catholic Academy's Aaron Capista (second round), two fourth-rounders and a fifth-rounder. The Class of 1991 was mighty impressive, headlined by Thornwood's Cliff Floyd (No. 14 overall), Simeon's Shaun Livsey (29th overall), Barrington's Ben Boka (fourth round) and two fifth-rounders.

Not until the early 1980s is there another strong overall contender. The Class of 1982 very well may have the best argument with three first-round picks: Aurora Central Catholic's Bob Kipper (8th overall), Hinsdale South's Scott Jones (22nd overall) and Proviso East's Robert Jones (28th overall). The 1982 class also featured Dave Otto (second round) and a third-round pick.

In 1980, Lake Park's Dan Shulze and Joliet West's Jeff Reed were selected Nos. 11 and 12 overall. In 1975, Washington's Les Filkins (3rd overall) and Evanston's Brian Rosinski (4th overall) were two of the top drafts in the country. The Class of 1971 produced the state's only No. 1 pick (Danny Goodwin, a catcher from Peoria Central HS), along with two second-rounders, a third, two fourth-rounders and a fifth.

Armed with that knowledge, perhaps it isn't that big of a leap to say the Class of 2011 is one of the best of all-time. Only time will tell. So many things can change in the spring leading up to the draft, not to mention the most important variable of actually getting selected: signability. If a player puts too high of a signing price tag on himself, then he won't get picked, no matter how talented he is. But that topic is for a different day.

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