Coaches all over the suburbs of Chicago have nothing but superlatives to say about Jake Zitella, a West Chicago native who has impressed fellow players, coaches, scouts and evaluators since his early teens. A back injury this past winter nearly derailed what most expected to be a special season, but Zitella worked through it, returning to the basics and making sure to be grateful for his physical gifts that most could only ever dream of possessing. As a result, the third baseman did not miss a step, hitting .484/.570/.945 with the Saints in his final year at St Charles East High School, whacking 13 doubles and launching 9 home runs. He was chosen as the DuKane Conference’s Player of the Year for his efforts.
Zitella stands square at the plate, holding his hands high and wrapping his bat behind his head at 1:30. He swings with a slight leg lift and has a loose, quick bat. The 5’11”, 195-pound infielder has recorded exit velocities reaching as high as 103 MPH in recorded batted ball events in tournaments this past season, averaging 96.2 MPH. Since first starting high school, Zitella has averaged 92.4 MPH, with the highest gains coming in his junior and senior seasons. The max distance that he logged hits also has increased over the years as his launch angle has optimized, logging an average launch angle of 25 and 23.2 degrees in 2020 and 2021 as opposed to more efficient 19.2 and 20.1 degree averages in 2022 and 2023. Zitella still has room to grow as a hitter, using his hips more efficiently and strengthening his wrists to allow him to adjust his barrel path to adjust to better breaking balls and get under the ball less.
On the infield dirt, Zitella projects to stay on the left side of the infield in the long term. He shows quick reaction times, moves well laterally, has a smooth glove and soft hands, and has a strong and accurate arm, clocked on throws across the diamond as high as 91 MPH. His biggest defensive weaknesses are his transfer and throw times, which should improve with professional coaching. He has plenty of room to grow and fill in, but his body is proportionate and as such, Zitella is unlikely to put on so much weight and muscle that he is no longer athletic enough and rangy enough to man the hot corner.
Zitella has a commitment to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign but has indicated that he is intending on forgoing it and turning pro.