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.