Huth: Illinois' top potential MLB draftees

Huth: Illinois' top potential MLB draftees

With Major League Baseball's annual amateur draft starting Monday, News-Gazette college baseball beat writer Jeff Huth looks at the Illini players (and one recruit) most likely to be selected:

Matt Milroy

The junior reliever could be the highest-drafted Illini pitcher since Matt Vorwald was selected in the seventh round in 2001. His fastball is that good, consistently clocking at 91-93 mph and sometimes reaching 95 mph. The concern is the right-hander's struggle to control all that power. In 53 1/3 innings this season, Milroy walked 44. But when he has command, the Batavia native can be unhittable, as his 65 strikeouts attest. Milroy also throws a nasty slider, giving him a second above-average pitch. He's been on the pro radar since high school. After his senior year, Milroy was drafted in the 35th round by the Boston Red Sox. Here's what Baseball America's Jim Callis, who projects Milroy going no lower than the 10th round, has written about him: "Milroy has the best pure stuff of any draft-eligible pitcher in the Big Ten Conference this year, but his inability to harness it has relegated him to the Illinois bullpen. ... Scouts love Milroy's arm but wonder if he'll ever develop control, command, consistency and toughness."

Willie Argo

The Illini's career stolen-base leader is no stranger to the draft. This week, the senior center fielder should be picked for a third time after being selected out of high school (49th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008) and last June (43rd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates). Argo put together a far stronger year this season than he did as a junior, hitting .318 and reaching base at a .430 clip in 2012. From a negotiating standpoint, this revival came a year too late for Argo because the senior won't have the leverage he possessed last June, when he had remaining college eligibility. However, if the Davenport, Iowa, native is taken in the 11- to 25-round range — as projected by national scouting service Perfect Game — his signing bonus certainly should be higher than the Pirates' meager offer. Often labeled a five-tool player during his career, Argo saw his power numbers fall dramatically after hitting 12 homers as an Illini freshman. In the following three seasons, he never hit more than four, including one this year. But the pros certainly don't turn up their noses at four-tool guys.

Jordan Parr

No Illini made a greater impact at the plate this season than this redshirt sophomore. The right-handed-hitting first baseman led the team in seven offensive categories, including batting average (.348), home runs (five), RBI (45) and slugging percentage (.517). It was a particularly impressive showing because it came in Parr's first season facing NCAA Division I pitching. The Chillicothe native began his career at Illinois State, where he redshirted as a freshman, before transferring to Parkland College last school year. It will be interesting to see where any team that might draft Parr projects him in the field. A corner outfielder at Parkland, Parr at times showed his lack of experience at first base this year, including decisions that involved coordinating with the second baseman and pitcher on grounders hit to the right side. His errors (seven) were high, too, but the 6-foot-3 Parr also saved his share of throws to first with his reach.

Jason Goldstein

The Illini have built a reputation as Catcher U., with four backstops drafted in the top 11 rounds (two in Round 3) during the past 10 years. Illinois seemingly has another good one on the way in this Highland Park senior. The question is, will the pros press hard to get Goldstein's signature on a contract? A four-year prep starter, Goldstein is rated by Baseball America as the state's No. 2 catching prospect (prep or college eligible). Perfect Game ranks the 6-foot, 190-pounder as the overall No. 9 prospect in Illinois.

Kevin Johnson

The junior right-hander has been a three-year fixture in the UI starting rotation. Ultra durable, Johnson already owns the school record for career Big Ten innings pitched (153 2/3), and he would enter his senior year No. 6 on the UI's all-time list for career innings pitched (267). The Illini's Game 1 weekend starter each of the past two years, Johnson surely hasn't lacked for exposure to pro scouts. The Midlothian native made strong strides this season, winning five more games than he had as a sophomore while cutting his ERA by more than a half-point. But will the scouts be concerned about Johnson's high rate of hits allowed (100 in 88 1/3 innings this year and 291 in three seasons)? Baseball America rates Johnson as the No. 23 draft prospect in the state and No. 13 pitching prospect.

Justin Parr

The jury is split on the draft prospects of Jordan's twin brother. Baseball America does not list Justin among its top 25 draft eligibles in the state. Perfect Game rates the junior left fielder as the No. 7 college prospect in Illinois, three spots ahead of his brother. After starting his college career at Parkland, Justin transferred to the UI as a sophomore and was arguably the 2011 team's best overall hitter. In fact, the lefty swinger won the Big Ten batting title with a .411 average in league play. Parr found the going tougher this season, his overall batting average falling 27 percentage points. However, he displayed more power, hitting the first three homers of his UI career. Like his brother, Justin's pro position might be a question mark. In 2011, when he was the Illini's primary DH, Parr played 18 games at second base. This year, he was a fixture in left field, but the pros look for more power from their corner outfielders than Parr so far has shown he can produce.

Follow along
Track the draft at http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2012 starting at 6 p.m. Monday.

Categories (3):Baseball, Illini Sports, Sports

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