List of top 15 Rockford-area baseball players includes two NCAA Division I shortstops
Three pitchers who had ERAs below 1.00 last year. Two batters with slugging percentages above .800. A pair of shortstops who have already signed to play NCAA Division I college baseball. These are just a few of the top players in what figures to be an exciting, talent-laden local baseball season this year.
Here are our top 15 Rockford-area baseball players to watch as the season begins this week:
Chandler Alderman, North Boone
Alderman is a 6-foot-4, hard-throwing junior left-hander. “He was up to 88 mph this fall along with good command and a deep arsenal of off-speed pitches,” North Boone coach Andrew Baden said. “He isn’t just an arm, though. He is one of the best fielding first basemen I have seen and he’ll hit in the middle of our order, where he hit above .400 as a sophomore.”
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Ryan Anderson, Hononegah
The senior left-hander was 9-0 with a 0.48 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 58 innings before taking a 5-3 loss in the Class 4A state semifinals. He also batted .292 and drove in the winning run with a ninth-inning single to give Hononegah a 3-2 win over Huntley for its first sectional title in school history. Anderson pitched all nine innings of that game and didn’t allow an earned run, mixing in his fastball with a curve, slider and change-up. "What makes him so good is he has four legitimate pitches he can throw at any count," Hononegah coach Matt Simpson said. "In high school if you can have two it will make you effective. For him to have a mix of four keeps hitters off balance and makes his fastball jump that much more."
Nathan Brinkmeier, Pearl City
The 5-foot-10, 150-pound junior struck out two batters per inning as a sophomore. He was 6-1 for a team that was 2-7 in its other games, with a 0.72 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 38 innings. He allowed only two walks. “Nathan is a gamer,” Pearl City coach Ryne Plager said. “When he steps on the mound for us, we will be in any game. The team knows this and elevates their game behind him on the diamond.”
Brinkmeier also batted .375 with 13 RBIs and 14 runs in 14 games.
Israel Delgado, Harlem
The 5-10, 183-pound senior shortstop is a transfer from Orland Park Sandburg who has signed to play in the SEC with Missouri. “He just does everything right,” Harlem coach Scott McCloy said. “He’s a total, 100-percent baseball player, whether it’s fielding, hitting, throwing or running. He knows how to play the game. And he puts a lot of time into his body and eats all the right kind of things.”
Delgado’s scouting report on prepbaseballreport.com calls him a “strong, compact, right-handed hitter” and says he has “loose, athletic hands compact swing, creates easy backspin, line-drive type hitter.”
Alex Easton, Boylan
Easton was 5-1 with a 2.52 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 33 ⅓ innings as a junior and pitched virtually every big game for Boylan, which tied Hononegah for the NIC-10 title at 17-1. “We knew he would be near the top of our rotation, but he surprised us and took the No. 1 role and ran with it and did a phenomenal job,” Boylan coach Matt Weber said.
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Javier Garcia, Harlem
Garcia hit .386 with 25 RBIs, 21 runs scored and 14 extra-base hits as a junior all-conference third baseman. He had a .602 slugging percentage and .490 on-base average. “He was the glue that made us go,” Harlem coach Scott McCloy said. “He’s got the arm. He knows the game. He’s a smart baseball player.” Garcia will also play some first base and pitch this year.
Bryce Goodwine, Hononegah
Goodwine played spectacular defense in left field and hit .451 with 13 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs and 37 runs for a Hononegah team that finished 26-4. He was second on the team in runs scored. At the state medal ceremony, the IHSA official hanging the medal around Goodwine's neck mentioned how much he liked watching him play the outfield. "You don't hear that too much," Hononegah coach Matt Simpson said. "That just shows how exciting the plays he can make are." Goodwine will get even more chances this year, moving over to center field.
Justin Gorski, Rockford Christian
Gorski batted .533 last year with a 1.375 OPS. He scored 33 runs, stole 25 bases and struck out only twice. The speedy shortstop has signed to play NCAA Division I baseball with Miami of Ohio. “He’s quick. His first step is as good as it gets,” Rockford Christian coach Mike Mather said. “He can obviously run and he is getting bigger and stronger. His power numbers will definitely increase this year.”
Owen Greenfield, Forreston
The shortstop/pitcher/catcher hit .330 as a sophomore with 22 RBIs, 32 runs and 17 steals for Forreston (18-4-1, 10-1 NUIC South). He also had a 0.71 ERA with 43 strikeouts vs. 9 walks in 30 innings as a pitcher. He opened his junior season Tuesday with two doubles and played shortstop for three innings, catcher for two and pitched the final two innings of Forreston's 6-1 win over Lena-Winslow. "In a small school it really helps to have players who can move around, and he's that guy," Forreston coach Mike McClelland said.
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Luke Leombruni, Boylan
Leombruni, who also starts on Boylan’s basketball team, batted .448 out of the leadoff spot as a junior with 27 runs, 15 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 27 games. He moves from left field to center field as a senior. “When he gets on, he is going to get himself in scoring position,” Boylan coach Matt Weber said. “The whole ballpark knows he is stealing at some point. That puts pressure on the pitcher, puts pressure on the middle infielders to stay alert and the catcher knows any kind of bobble at any time could cost him. Any time you can distract the defense without putting the ball in play is huge.”
Jackson Lindquist, Winnebago
North Boone coach Andrew Baden called Lindquist “possibly the best bat in the Big Northern Conference." The senior middle infielder — who might also play some center field — hit .480 last year with 24 RBIs and 27 runs in 20 games, helping Winnebago (16-4, 8-2 BNC) win its first sectional title in school history. He had a slugging percentage of .817. “We are expecting a lot,” Winnebago coach Ron Adams said. “He set the bar pretty high. And he’s going to get the opportunity to pitch a lot more this year.”
Caleb Mammoser, Warren/Stockton
Mammoser was 5-1 with a 0.40 ERA as a junior for the Warhawks. He struck out 53 and walked six in 35 innings for a team that finished 21-2. “Caleb is an outstanding control pitcher, but he also has a lot of stuff,” coach James Nielsen said. “He throws the ball hard and has a good changeup and a curve. In high school, you have to have at least two pitches. When you have three and great control, you can be outstanding. I think he can match up with anybody in the area.”
Mammoser also plays third base and batted .353 with 24 RBIs in 22 games.
Dylan Sayles, Hononegah
Sayles, a senior outfielder, hit .397 with 22 RBIs and 34 runs last year for a Hononegah team that finished fourth in the state in Class 4A. "We're expecting big things out of him," Hononegah coach Matt Simpson said. "We're looking for him to take that next step and be an absolute elite hitter for us. Him and Bryce (Goodwine) are going to be batting at the top of our order and setting the table for everything we do offensively."
Braden Smith, Byron
Smith was the youngest player on the Register-Star’s all-area baseball team last year and is one of only three returners from that 12-man team. He batted .400 and also drew 15 walks for a .560 on-base percentage, scoring 18 runs with eight RBIs. He was 4-2 as a pitcher with a 2.47 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 34 innings. Genoa-Kingston coach Roger Butler called the junior shortstop/pitcher “a beast.” North Boone coach Andrew Bades said Smith “will be one of the best all-around players in the area. He will likely be a true ace and the best player on a tough Byron team.”
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Julian Sturtevant, Guilford
The senior centerfielder made first team All-NIC-10 last year, batting .507 with 15 RBIs, 25 runs scored and 13 steals. “Julian is just a gamer,” Guilford coach Adam Lewis said. “Every day he has got the same mentality: He is going to go out, get on base and score runs for us. And anything in the center field area, i don’t have to question that ball is going to get tracked down. He has speed and knows as a baseball player how to get an out. He has even said he is willing to pitch this year; if we need innings, he will provide them.”
Matt Trowbridge is a Rockford Register Star sports reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, call him at 815-987-1383 and follow him on Twitter at @MattTrowbridge. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at rrstar.com.