The amount of draft picks Iowa baseball has seen in recent years is yet another clear indication that Rick Heller has the program trending in the right direction. Last year, Jake Adams and Mason McCoy became the first pair of Hawkeyes to be drafted in the top-10 rounds in the same year since 1992. Iowa's four draft picks also extended Heller's streak to four straight years with at least three Hawkeyes selected.
This year should be no different. As many as five Hawkeyes could hear their name called from June 4-6. (The first 78 picks will be made tonight, June 4, beginning at 6 PM CT on MLB Network. The remaining 900 (!) picks will take place on Days 2 and 3 of the MLB Draft, Tuesday, June 5, and Wednesday, June 6; those picks will be streamed on MLB.com.)
Robert Neustrom: .311/.386/.538, 11 HR, 36 RBI, 66 H, 15 2B
There is a legitimate chance that Robert Neustrom becomes Iowa's highest draft pick since Wes Obermueller was selected in the second round in 1999, according to The Baseball Cube. Scouts are drooling over him, according to Dargan Southard.
“Doubt he lasts past the 4th round if he continues to perform,” D1Baseball.com’s director of college scouting David Seifert wrote in a chat when the midseason rankings were released on April 12. “He’s always hit at Iowa, as well as in the Cape last summer.”
The conference's consensus Preseason Player of the Year wasn't even Iowa's best hitter this year, but his potential is still among the highest in the Big Ten. He has steadily improved in every area at the plate through his career and is a reliable defender, committing just three errors in 285 chances. It also helps that he was an all-star in the Cape Cod League, one of the top summer baseball leagues in the country.
At the plate, Neustrom has shown improved power, hits for average and doesn't strike out a lot. He doesn't have great speed, but that's not a huge issue since he's a corner outfielder. As a result, Baseball America ranks Neustrom No. 190, which would make him a day two selection.
Neustrom is arguably the most intriguing prospect in the Heller-era and has nothing left to prove in the college ranks. Barring a massive surprise, Iowa will need a new right fielder in 2019.
Brady Schanuel: 5-7, 5.94 ERA, 53 IP, 65 K, 43 BB
Brady Schanuel is Iowa's most interesting prospect. On one hand, he's been drafted in each of the past two drafts, and the plan was always having him at Iowa for only one season. On the other hand, he battled injuries, struggled all season with control and consistency, and he eventually lost his weekend rotation spot to true freshman Jack Dreyer.
Despite a 5.94 ERA and 43 walks in 53 innings, Schanuel still sits at No. 493 on Baseball America's draft list. It makes some sense, though. His fastball reaches the mid-90s, and he easily strikes out batters when he has his best stuff, such as his 11 strikeouts in seven shutout innings against Indiana. The problem is Schanuel rarely had his best stuff as a Hawkeye.
In any other sport, Schanuel coming back for his senior season to prove he can pitch well at the D-I level would make sense. However, in baseball, coming back for another year could actually be worse. Besides the risk of injury and another bad season, he would also lose financial leverage as a senior. That alone would make his stock draft drop in 2019.
Schanuel was never the ace Iowa hoped for, but the potential is there. It would be surprising to see him back in Iowa City next season.
Tyler Cropley: .342/.449/.578, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 68 H, 20 2B
Baseball America has Tyler Cropley at No. 469 on their draft list, which is fitting for a top-tier senior catcher. There was only one senior catcher drafted before pick 469 last year. Cropley, a first-team all-Big Ten selection, Johnny Bench award semifinalist and All-American, could get drafted late on day two of the draft, though.
Teams shouldn't worry about his poor end to the season, as he was hampered by a thumb injury. Even with that ailment, he still led the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBI, hits, runs and doubles -- his 20 doubles are second-most in a single season in program history. His nine home runs also shows that he could have above-average power for a catcher. Simply put, he was Iowa's best hitter the entire season.
In 2018, Cropley's offense overshadowed his fantastic defense. He had a .990 fielding percentage in two seasons with Iowa and threw out 29 percent of base stealers this season. Last season, he threw out 35.8 percent of base stealers.
Even though being a senior hurts his stock, Cropley could provide a team with an above-average hitter and defender later in the draft. He's a senior, so Iowa will likely have either Matt Berst or Brett McCleary behind the plate in 2019.
Nick Allgeyer: 5-4, 2.41 ERA, 97.0 IP, 95 K, 28 BB
No one could have expected Nick Allgeyer to be one of the best pitchers in the Big Ten this past season. The left-handed junior had the lowest ERA among Iowa starting pitchers in the Heller-era. In fact, he led the team in innings pitched, ERA, strikeouts and quality starts.
Baseball America has Allgeyer at No. 455, which means he and Schanuel could go around the same time Nick Gallagher was drafted last season. If Allgeyer gets drafted between rounds 15 and 20, he will have a similar decision to make as Gallagher did a year ago.
It's hard to say Allgeyer has anything left to prove after he had 13 quality starts in 15 tries. He doesn't have a mid-90s fastball, or the deadly slider Gallagher showed last season, but he still struck out at least seven batters in seven starts. His elbow never bothered him after missing 2017 with Tommy John surgery, and he even threw 122 pitches against Ohio State.
If Allgeyer falls in the draft, or if the money isn't right, then he could come back for his senior season. However, the same risks apply to him, and it's hard to believe his stock can get any higher than now.
Zach Daniels: 6-2, 5 SV, 2.56 ERA, 45.2 IP, 49 K
Zach Daniels knew he could pitch his way into the MLB Draft with a strong season. It looks like he delivered. This past season, Daniels was Iowa's most trusted reliever, leading the team with six wins and five saves. His 2.56 ERA was also unmatched, as no other Iowa reliever was below 3.60.
Despite not making Baseball America's top-500 list, there is a chance he gets drafted and could leave if the money is right. The junior has accounted for 14 wins, 11 saves and a 2.68 ERA over his career, while also showing major improvements this season after an inconsistent sophomore season. He also throws in the low to mid-90s, which is a big positive for his draft stock.
His consistency this season is what makes him an intriguing prospect. Daniels only allowed multiple runs in three outings and had nine outings with at least three strikeouts, even though he averaged just 1.8 innings per outing (around 5 outs). Also, just like many of Heller's closers over the years, he had a lot of stamina, such as when he struck out six over four shutout innings against Michigan.
Daniels is the most likely of the mentioned to return for another season, especially since it's not a guarantee he'll even be drafted. If he does return, he'll enter 2019 as one of the Big Ten's top closers. If he does get drafted (and signs), then Iowa will be left with a huge hole to fill in an improving, but still inconsistent, bullpen.
Korry Howell: .401/.483/.572, 2 HR, 45 RBI, 40 SB
There is a chance that Kirkwood Korry Howell is Iowa's starting shortstop next season. There is also a chance that he's playing in the minor leagues next season. Heller says it's about a 50-50 chance that he decides to come to Iowa next season.
Howell projects to be a leadoff hitter, which would be a nice addition if Chris Whelan hits third in the order as Iowa's best batter next season. He has great speed, swiping 40 bases in 49 attempts to go along with 22 doubles and five triples in 60 games. And it's evident that he hits for average.
There are concerns about his power at the plate. However, if a guy can hit .401, I don't think he also needs to hit double-digit home runs. Still, that could be a reason he falls in the draft and ultimately decides to come to Iowa. Defensively, Baseball America says he has great range at shortstop, something Iowa missed this season. He doesn't have a great arm, though.
After Kyle Crowl committed 11 errors at shortstop last season, Howell would be a welcome addition. Iowa is building a strong history of sending JUCO transfers to the majors after one or two seasons, so it wouldn't be crazy if Howell chose Iowa. But it all depends on when he gets drafted, the money he's offered, and team who selects him.