Dreams will soon become reality as the MLB Draft begins this Sunday and continues over the week. For the Illini duo of Jacob Campbell and Cole Kirschsieper, it must be starting to feel all so real.
Catcher Jacob Campbell and pitcher Cole Kirschsieper were part of an Illini team that finished with a 31-22 record, including a conference record of 17-7 (4th place in the Big Ten). Behind the plate, Campbell was the Illini’s “iron man,” starting all 52 games for the orange and blue. He was also a huge contributor for Kirschsieper’s success on the bump this year. With Campbell by his side, Kirschsieper was able to go 7-2 while pitching a grand total of 87.1 innings, earning him 2nd-Team All-Big Ten honors.
As a duo, they were nearly unstoppable, but individually, what can we expect from these two over the course of the draft?
To start, it’s important to remember that this is not Jacob’s first time through the draft process. Jacob was drafted in the 36th round of the 2018 draft coming out of high school by the Chicago Cubs, which he declined. After mulling over offers from schools such as Michigan, Virginia Tech, Wichita State, Nebraska, and Illinois State, he decided to attend school and play ball in the 217.
Jacob was the regular starting catcher for his four years at Illinois, but while being fundamentally sound on defense, his bat initially left something to be desired.
It wasn’t until his junior year where things started to click at the plate—and by click I mean CLICK. He stepped up, finishing his junior season with a .299 batting average, 29 hits, and 6 home runs. He didn’t stop there. Last year, his senior season, he tore it up—posting a .257 batting average with 54 hits, 41 RBIs, and 8 home runs.
Prospect Live places Jacob as the 174th best prospect in this year’s draft, projecting him to be selected in the middle of day two (rounds 3-10).
Campbell was a steady perfomer all year for the Fighting Illini providing some thump at the plate and steadfast defense behind the plate. Campbell does have some swing and miss concerns, and his contact quality has trended in the right direction over the past two seasons, but scouts like the balance in his profile as a potential future platoon guy. Campbell has solid average raw power and a budding bat that could get his bat selected in the middle of day two. He’s got an average arm and fringy athleticism behind the plate.
The former No. 41 left-handed pitcher in the nation coming out of high school was able to leave his mark over two full seasons with the Illini.
This season, Cole became the pitching rotation’s ace. Cole went 7-2 with a 3.40 ERA, striking out 88 batters over 15 starts. He was as reliable as they come during his sophomore season.
Before the draft, Illinois baseball dropped this very insightful look-in on how Cole Kirschsieper was able to step up his game and eventually become the draft prospect that he is.
Prospect Live has Cole as the 228th best prospect in the draft, with this to say about him:
“An undersized lefty with feel for a four-pitch mix. Plays the east to west game with a heavy running two-seamer, changeup, and slider.”
They also praise how Cole pitched in the Cape Cod League last summer after struggling during his freshman year.
“Summer breakout, that struggled out of the Illini pen in 2021. Was able to become a very reliable starter against Big Ten play in 2022.”
Best of luck to Jacob and Cole as their journey to professional baseball is just on the horizon. And who knows? There could be more Illini joining in on the fun on draft night.