Outside of Kentucky, Illinois has been a critical part of Coach McDonnell’s success due to the pipeline the staff has created over the years. Since 2010, at least two players from each class from the state of Illinois have committed to the Cards.
Not only has the roster been full of Illinoisans (just go with it), they could have their own section of the All-American wall at Jim Patterson Stadium. Players like the Burdi brothers, Corey Ray, Reid Detmers, Chad Green, Kyle Funkhouser, and Josh Stowers have all made their way to Louisville via the Prairie State.
The class of 2021 is led by six players from Kentucky, which you can read about here and here, followed by five players from Illinois. Louisville Assistant Coach and Recruiting Director, Eric Snider, has turned Illinois into Louisville west after spending 15 years with the Illini program in various roles.
Let’s go ahead and dive into this class.
High School/Travel Team: Marist HS/White Sox Ace
Height/Weight: 6-1/185 LBS
PBR Ranking (State/Nation): 3/199 (Super 60 Participant)
PG Ranking (State/Nation): 3/129
Senior Stats: .361 BA, 26 RBI, 14 BB, 22 SB
Like Daylen Lile and Will Koger, Smith is the third (and probably final) commit that will have a decision to make upon the conclusion of the MLB Draft. He is projected to go somewhere around the 8th-10th round, but could fall beyond that. I would be more shocked if he signs than if he shows up on campus, but anything can happen when it comes to high school draft prospects.
Smith displays a lot of range and is known for his defense, but his arm has room for growth before competing at the next level. At the plate, he is a solid contact hitter that will spray the ball across the entire field, but did not hit a home run in his high school career. He could develop some power as he grows into his frame, but that will never be his forte.
High School/Travel Team: Minooka HS/Cangelosi Sparks
Height/Weight: 6-5/235 LBS
PBR Ranking (State): 14
PG Ranking (State/Nation): 6/410
Walter has a big, physical frame with a very deceiving arm angle that makes it tough to pickup the ball from his hand. Along with his fastball, he includes a curve, slider (his strikeout pitch), and changeup in his four pitch mix. His fastball has been clocked up to 95 MPH but sits comfortably around 92-94 MPH.
I think Walter has a chance to be an under-the-radar type guy that is not getting a lot of attention, but we could end up seeing him on the field next season. The pitching staff needs some of the young arms from this class to step up and he looks the part.
You can’t teach 6-5/235 LBS and you certainly can’t teach a 95 MPH fastball. After spending some time with Pitching Coach Roger Williams, Walter could be one of the freshman to step up and make an impact.
Eddie King Jr.
High School/Travel Team: Marian Catholic HS/White Sox Ace
Height/Weight: 6-2/180 LBS
PBR Ranking (State): 21
PG Ranking (State): 8
Senior Stats: .446 BA, 7 home runs, 3 triples, 11 doubles, 35 RBI, 23 SB
After being heavily recruited by Miami, King chose Louisville, his dream school, so his family could attend more of his games due to the proximity of Louisville’s campus. Any high school player that is recruited by Miami is welcome to play here any day.
With a taller, thinner frame, his main focus is to get stronger prior to beginning his collegiate career. He tries to model his game after Ronald Acuna and a younger version of Adam Jones. I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling that Coach McDonnell would take either one of them roaming the outfield in Jim Patterson Stadium.
King will bring a lot of energy to the field and displays patience at the plate. He will show a glimpse of power which will increase as he hits the weight room in college. Although he is listed as a 1B/OF, King projects as an outfielder at the next level.
Up Next: The tour of Illinois concludes with Adam Dowler and Landon Looper, two more pitchers in this arm-heavy class. Although Dowler is not highly ranked, he is a name to keep an eye on. You will find out why next week. Along with Dowler and Looper, the lone player from the sunshine state, Braden Calise, will be featured.