Draft Dodgers (or Padres) (or Yankees)
The Major League baseball draft begins next Monday, and as we have discussed, there is plenty of intrigue for fans of Iowa athletics. For one, the reigning Division I hope run champion and Big Ten Player of the Year Jake Adams is on the board. But Adams is just one of a handful of current and future Hawkeyes to watch.
Adams is ranked No. 297 on Baseball America's Big Board as of this week, but team-to-team scouting variance is higher in the MLB Draft than other sports. Projections vary wildly from scout to scout, and a player ranked at the bottom of one team's board could be an early-round selection for another. Junior pitcher Nick Gallagher is right behind Adams on the BA list; again, there's no sign of what he would do if drafted. No other current Hawkeyes are to be found.
And then there is Henry Marchese, the Iowa football recruit who has skyrocketed up MLB draft lists as a high school senior. Marchese told Land of 10 he's "keep[ing] all doors open," but the very act of not committing could harm his draft stock enough to make college football a worthwhile endeavor.
“It’s a tough decision,” Marchese said. “I’ll weigh my options. I want to keep all doors open and see what happens.”
Marchese is communicating with the Iowa football staff about his baseball future, saying coach Kirk Ferentz supports him with whatever he does. Freshmen start arriving on campus next week with the first summer workout set for June 12, right as the draft begins.
“I will be there,” Marchese said. “I am a Hawkeye.”
Also missing from that BA list: Connor McCaffery, which is good if you hope to see him in black and gold this fall. McCaffery is spending his summer hitting dingers and giving interviews, and seems set on going to school this fall. And while the MLB Draft may be a high-variance endeavor, it's hard to see a scenario where a player outside the BA top 500 would make the first few rounds unless one particularly influential scout fell in love.
In the meantime, it was baseball Signing Day yesterday. Iowa welcomed seven new recruits, including a pair of JUCO transfers and immaculately-named high school shortstop Zion Pettigrew. In eleven years of writing about Iowa athletics, I've never mentioned baseball Signing Day or knew when it was. We're living in a brave new world of Hellerball. (Editor's Note: Actually it turns out those players signed with Iowa in November, but hey -- they're still new to us.)
Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs
Speaking of Signing Day, SI's Andy Staples dives into the new early signing period debate, and it's almost good enough to live through an annoying autoplay video that follows you around the screen like the Mona Lisa's eyes. On its face, a December signing period doesn't seem like much of a change from the February Signing Day we all know and begrudgingly tolerate, but Staples uncovers the truth at the heart of the sudden fit of rage at the December signing period from (mostly SEC) coaches: It could eviscerate serial scholarship offerors:
Most programs hand out more than 100 scholarship offers but aren’t allowed to sign more than 25 players a year. Obviously, they need to offer more than 25 players because not everyone they offer will sign. But do they need to offer 231? That’s how many players claim offers from Minnesota in the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports database. Do they need to offer 265? According to rivals.com, that’s how many class of ’18 players claim offers from Ole Miss, whose coach thinks allowing players to sign six weeks earlier is reckless. Even if we correct for the possibility that some of the players are claiming offers they don’t have—let’s estimate that number liberally at 50—it’s still an astounding number of offers.
Before this recruiting cycle, coaches could watch the dominos fall through December and January and either cut loose committed players or ask them to take a grayshirt, which would require them to delay enrollment until the spring of the following year. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh made headlines in January of ’16 for pruning his recruiting class of committed players. Alabama’s Nick Saban has made headlines in multiple years for having the grayshirt conversation with players close to National Signing Day.
The belief is that coaches will have to make a decision on giving Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D recruits scholarship offers by December or risk losing them to other programs willing to make concrete offers. No matter how many offers they scatter into the air, each team will essentially only be able to send approximately thirty letters of intent for December. All those fingers-crossed-behind-the-back promises from coaches who love you but aren't IN love with you will be laid bare when LOI's don't materialize.
All of this could be irrelevant to certain recruits. Anyone who has played the wait list game for a spot in college or grad school understands how that can happen. And a recruit who really wants to go to Alabama or Ohio State or USC may be willing to punt a December offer from Iowa to wait and see if a February offer comes from elsewhere. But the Karan Higdon situation -- stay committed until the morning of Signing Day and leave Iowa with a guy that nobody has ever heard of -- won't be as prevalent, which is why Ferentz (and Bret Bielema, in Staples' story) are in favor of the change. It gives the middle-tier team a better shot at middle-tier recruits, because it allows them to do something a recruiting-star-obsessed program can't: Provide an actual scholarship offer.
This could stop late-game poaching. What this won't do is stop Iowa State from handing out 400 offers, because Iowa State is playing a different game. As Staples points out, most schools will offer 100 scholarships for 25 spots because players will eventually commit elsewhere. At the moment, Iowa State's net has to be 400 wide because it's recruiting a ton of players with no intention of going to Ames, Iowa, in the hopes of swaying one four-star with pure, overwhelming attention and brilliantly clean drinking water. By the time December hits, Matt Campbell is going to know full well whether he's getting that guy, and can plan accordingly. If you really wanted to stop serial scholarship offering, you'd have to make every offer committable. And if you did that, the SEC might actually secede from football.
Odds & Ends
Iowa Athletics announced that it has hired Marcus Wilson, a former Maryland Athletics official, as Senior Associate Director of Athletics. He fills the position vacated when Barbara Burke was promoted into Gene Taylor's spot, which itself was opened when Taylor left to become the athletics director at Kansas State.
The Sporting News predicts every bowl game for this December and next January. Iowa-Arkansas would turn the TaxSlayer Bowl into STORYLINE BOWL 2K18. Also, "Iowa plays Arkansas in Jacksonville" is the most depressing sentence ever written.
This highlight video of football's winter workouts looks like the least fun thing in the history of the world.
The Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein put together a good profile on former Hawkeye golfer Vince India, who has been pro tour-hopping all over the globe since graduation.
Finally, if you've ever wondered what would happen if Adam Jacobi became a thoroughbred horse owner, I present the greatest horse race ever.