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2020 Illinois Baseball Positions Preview: Pitchers and Catchers

The Illini have a bundle of newcomers to their bullpen

FightingIllini.com

Illinois lost four pitchers to the minor leagues this past season, but it added 18 players to the roster, 12 of whom are freshmen and seven of those newbies are pitchers, along with one catcher.

Notable freshmen:

  • Cole Kischsieper: The No. 2 left-handed pitcher in Illinois by Prep Baseball Report. He put up a great line his senior year: 10-1, 0.42 ERA, and 70 strikeouts. Kischsieper held nine school records including season ERA (0.42), career ERA (0.85), season wins (10), career wins (21), season strikeouts (89), and career strikeouts (187).
  • Alex Vera: The No. 7 left-handed pitcher in Illinois by Prep Baseball Report. His senior year line: 6-2, 2.64 ERA, 72 strikeouts.
  • Grant Leader: Finally, the No. 3 right-handed pitcher in Illinois by Prep Baseball Report. Leader had 65 strikeouts in 42 innings as a senior. He committed to the Illini at 16 years old.

Pitchers to count on:

While it’s tough to predict who will be in the starting rotation for this season, expect Ty Weber and Nathan Lavender to take a bulk of the work. Weber, a senior from Menomonee Falls, Wisc. had an impressive 2019 campaign, going 4-3 with a 3.28 ERA over 79.2 innings pitched, the second most on the team. Lavender showed versatility in 2019, pitching out of the bullpen while also having four starts during 2019.

There are other options that could be thrown into the mix for starting, such as Ryan Schmitt, who had an impressive 3.38 ERA over 29.1 innings of relief in 2019. Aidan Maldonado was also selected in the 38th round of 2018 MLB Draft. The sophomore appeared in 13 games and collected five starts and could be another potential name to watch out for.

While there are many question marks surrounding the pitchers, one thing you can count on is Garrett Acton being the closer. After a 2019 campaign that saw him collect 19 saves and a 2.18 ERA over 33 innings pitched, the Illini should have one of the safer bets at closer you’ll see in the Big Ten.

Catchers:

The Illini gained a freshman catcher, Will Pudik, with an average of .446, 12 doubles, three triples, five homers, 42 RBIs and a 1.297 OPS as a senior.

Sophomore catcher Jacob Campbell is who we may expect to see consistently behind the plate.

And while Kellen Sarver is listed as a first baseman and catcher, we only saw him behind the plate twice last season, so let’s not count on him to be there too often.