Last year Jake Adams and Mason McCoy were both selected in the sixth round of the MLB Draft, making them the highest-drafted Hawkeyes since 1999. There's a new highest-drafted Hawkeye of the Heller era now: Robert Neustrom was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the fifth round (145th pick).
Neustrom is also the highest-drafted Hawkeye since Danan Hughes was selected in the third round (79th pick) of the 1992 MLB Draft. The slot value for Neustrom's pick is $361,000. Neustrom's father confirmed to The Des Moines Register's Dargan Southard that Neustrom will be signing the Orioles' offer:
Neustrom's father, Tim, confirmed his son will forgo his senior year and sign with Baltimore.
"He will be going with the Orioles," Tim said. "(His selection) kind of went right with the projections, where they did have him projected as far as the number in the draft. And the amount was right there too. Everything kind of fell in place to go with the Orioles upon their selection. "
That means that we have seen the last of Neustrom in black and gold for Iowa, as we expected. Neustrom was a lightly recruited prospect out of high school at Sioux City North, in part due to the unusual summer schedule for high school baseball in Iowa that makes it harder for Iowa prospects to be seen by college programs in the sport's southern or western strongholds. Their loss was Iowa's gain, though, as Neustrom eagerly grabbed onto the chance to play Division I baseball that the Hawkeyes offered. Southard chronicled Neustrom's journey to Iowa City in an excellent article last month that's well worth reading if you haven't done so yet.
Once he got to Iowa City Neustrom became a fixture in right field and in Iowa's lineup for the next three seasons. As a freshman in 2016 he played in 52 of Iowa's 56 games (starting 38) and hit .307/.405/.389 with six doubles and a home run. He was just getting warmed up, though. Last year Neustrom played (and started) in all 61 Iowa games, hitting .310/.486/.358 with sixteen doubles and nine home runs. He took advantage of the lineup protection afforded by the presence of Jake Adams, but they ultimately had a symbiotic relationship in the Iowa lineup -- Neustrom's presence behind Adams made it harder for opposing pitchers to pitch around Adams, knowing that Neustrom would be up next and very capable of punishing them. Neustrom knocked in 55 RBI last year, second on the team to Adams' 72 RBI. This year Neustrom continued to excel, even without Adams' presence, hitting .311/.538/.386 with 15 doubles and 11 home runs and earning All-Big Ten first team honors. Neustrom's performances with Iowa attracted scouts' attention, but his star really rose after he excelled in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .302/.346/.479 with five doubles and four home runs in 30 games and earning All-Star honors in one of the top summer leagues in the country.
Neustrom's departure has been expected for a while, but it will still be a blow to the Iowa team in 2019. He's been a fixture in right field for Iowa for the past three seasons, and he's been incredible reliable in the field (just one error in the last two years) and at the plate. Replacing his production won't be easy. But that's also the nature of the beast in college sports and losing players because they perform well enough to attract pro attention is certainly a good problem to have -- and it's an increasingly familiar one for Iowa baseball. But dealing with his replacement will be a question for next season; for now let's just celebrate Neustrom's excellent accomplishments in black and gold and wish him well at the next level. Good luck, Robert!