Baseball's Class of 2013 'very, very successful'
We've looked at Illinois women's basketball, volleyball and softball so far in terms of the recruits they signed for the Class of 2013 on Nov. 14.
Our last one to profile before Christmas hits next Tuesday: baseball
Positive, glowing reviews of a particular recruiting class are part of signing day from a coach's perspective.
Illinois baseball head coach Dan Hartleb understands this.
"I know you've never heard a coach get up on (signing) day and say, 'You know what? I have the worst recruiting class in the world,'" Hartleb said with a laugh. "I do feel good about this class because I think these players fit what we're trying to do. If you look at our classes over the last five or six years, our main goal has been to bring in great pitching and to bring in great athletes. I think we've added to the players we have."
Illinois signed six players in mid-November, with four Illinois high school seniors, one Ohio high school senior and one junior college player being added to the mix.
Hartleb said before signing day he was talking to a current Illinois senior baseball player about the freshmen he has for the upcoming season, which starts Feb. 15 at Tennessee Tech.
The consensus was they don't act or play like freshmen. Hartleb feels the same way about his Class of 2013.
"They've been very, very successful," Hartleb said. "I think they're impact players."
Alex Greer, an outfielder from Liberty, Mo., who helped Iowa Western Community College win the 2012 NJCAA Division I World Series could find his name called in next year's Major League Baseball Draft.
Greer hit .347 with 12 home runs, 69 RBI and eight triples last year for Iowa Western.
"Alex is a premier player, one of the top players in the country," Hartleb said. "He has great speed. He is probably going to be the closest natural speed that we've had to Kyle Hudson since Kyle left. He always has power and throws the ball well from the outfield. He's a person we think can step into center field right away and help us out."
Another player who might find his name skyrocketing up mock draft boards is pitcher Cody Sedlock, a Sherrard native who attends Rock Island (Ill.) Alleman High School.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound right-hander went 10-3 with a 2.91 earned run average and 108 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings pitched during his junior season.
"He brings a toughness to the team," Hartleb said. "I had a scout call me after we already got a commitment from him, and the scout told me he thinks (Sedlock) will be the top pitcher out of the state by the time the year's over because of his command his breaking stuff."
Ryne Roper, from Harrisburg (Ill.) High School and Matthew James, from Normal West (Ill.) High School can both play shortstop and also pitch.
Roper — the younger brother of Illinois sophomore pitcher/infielder Reid Roper — is ranked the No. 2 player in the state in the Class of 2013 by Prep Baseball Report. James hit .356 with 29 RBI and went 7-1 with a 1.48 ERA in 42 2/3 innings with 58 strikeouts to only 13 walks.
"The tough thing we're going to have is which positions to play them at," Hartleb said. "If they fit into the starting rotation, how we do use them so we don't hurt them? (They) could be everyday position players. If they're everyday position players because we need their bat and their gloves in the lineup, then do those guys move to the bullpen? We have some things we'll need to sort out."
Another in-state senior, 6-2, 210-pound first baseman/outfielder Anthony Drago from Lake Zurich High School, brings left-handed power to a lineup. He hit .421 with eight home runs this past summer playing for Top Tier Americans travel team.
"Anthony is one of those guys that you better not turn your camera off very often because he may swing twice and miss and then hit it 450 feet," Hartleb said. "He's got electric power."
Another left-handed bat in the Class of 2013 is Dan Rowbottom, an outfielder from St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland. Rowbottom hit .313 with nine doubles, three triples and one home run last season while using a wooden bat.
"Dan is just a baseball junkie," Hartleb said. "He is a person who has great instincts."
As with every Division I college baseball program, Hartleb knows it's no guarantee all six will arrive or join the professional ranks. For now, though, he's optimistic with what each of the six can bring to his program.
"Part of the recruiting process that's very important is trying to identify players that have the ability to be professional players, but (that) school is very, very important to them," Hartleb said. "We think we have a group that school's very important (to them). Scouts know that the education here is so good that you have to spend a lot of money to buy players out from going ahead and going to school."