2018 Iowa Baseball Review: The Pitchers

By Jeremy Karll on June 26, 2018 at 2:05 pm
Allgeyer was all-good this year.

@UIBaseball

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Iowa baseball had three pitchers drafted for the first since 2015. The Hawkeyes will also need to replace its ace again and find a new closer next season. While the pitching staff was still inconsistent at times, it was a step in the right direction compared to last season, especially considering its youth.

Nick Allgeyer (JR)

2018: There was no downfall or inconsistency in Nick Allgeyer's comeback, first team All-Conference 2018 season. He was, simply put, stellar through the entire season. His Tommy John surgery never seemed to bother him as he tossed a team-high 97 innings. Despite throwing nearly 100 innings, he had Iowa's lowest ERA at 2.41 and walked just 28 batters. Opponents hit just .235 against him as he struck out 95 batters, the second most in school history. Not to mention he ended the season with 13 quality starts in his last 14 outings, including gems such as:

  • Indiana: 7 IP, 3 ER, 10 H, 5 K, BB
  • Illinois: 6.1 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 8 K, BB
  • Minnesota: 6.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 6 K, 2 BB
  • Michigan (RS): 7 IP, ER, 5 H, 8 K, 2 BB
  • Michigan (BTT): 7 IP, ER, 4 H, 9 K, 3 BB

2019 Prognosis: The Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the 12th round of the MLB Draft, and he chose to sign. He leaves with one of the greatest single-season performances in Iowa baseball history.

Brady Schanuel (JR)

2018: When we look back on this season in five years, one thing will stick out: This Iowa team would have been great if Brady Schanuel lived up to the preseason hype. I thought Schanuel had a chance at breaking Iowa's strikeout record but an early-season injury, 43 walks in 53 innings, only reaching four innings in five of 13 starts, and being moved to the bullpen to end the year prevented it. Still, Schanuel struck out 65 batters for a high 11.04 K/9. Despite the lack of command and 5.94 ERA, the former Ole Miss commit flashed his potential at times, such as seven shutout innings and 11 strikeouts against Indiana, after which he was named the conference's Pitcher of the Week. Or his six-inning, seven-strikeout quality start against Ohio State. There just weren't enough, and by the end of the season any, of those moments. 

2019 Prognosis: Schanuel signed with the Milwaukee Brewers after being selected in the 27th round. He has potential if he can work on his command, especially with a fastball in the mid-90s.

Cole McDonald (JR)

2018: After an up-and-down sophomore campaign, Cole McDonald brought the momentum from his World University Games no-hitter into the 2018 season. Even though he pitched on Sundays, he was Iowa's second-best starter all season. He had four quality starts in 11 tries, but injuries derailed the end of his season. Still, he only allowed more than three earned runs once in his final 10 starts and struck out at least four batters in his last seven starts, including at least six in four of those starts. He finished second on the team in innings pitched (55.2) and ERA (3.23), and third in strikeouts (52).

2019 Prognosis: McDonald enters 2019 as the clear favorite to be Iowa's Friday night starter. Lasting deeper into games, as he only pitched more than five innings four times this season, will be key, along with lowering his .249 opponent batting average. Of course, Iowa also can't afford to have him be sidelined with injury like he was at times this season. McDonald will be the most experienced member of Iowa's pitching staff, meaning he'll need to lead a group that features many underclassmen.

Zach Daniels (JR)

2018: Entering the season, everyone knew that Zach Daniels could be wild at times, but everyone also knew he could be one of the Big Ten's top closers. The latter  scenario prevailed, showcased by his four-shutout innings against Michigan in the regular season. Daniels had a 6-2 record, five saves and a 2.56 ERA to anchor Iowa's bullpen. He was Iowa's only reliever to throw more than 40 innings (45.2), while recording 49 strikeouts for a 9.66 K/9. Opponents also only hit .200 against him. However, Daniels still struggled with his control at times, shown by his bullpen-high 23 walks. Also, he struggled to end the season with a 6.00 ERA over his last nine innings. In a bullpen of inexperience, there's no doubt he was Iowa's most trusted reliever, though.

2019 Prognosis: The Atlanta Braves drafted him in the 19th round. Daniels is expected to sign.

Grant Judkins (SO)

2018: Two-way player Grant Judkins struggled on the mound as a freshman but bounced back as a sophomore with a 4.12 ERA in 39.1 innings. Judkins only appeared in four games through the two months of the season, but he saw action in nine games over the final two months. Rick Heller used him as a long relief option, including five innings of relief against Penn State. He also ended the season as arguably Iowa's top long relief option, with a 3.38 ERA over his last 16 innings. That said, Judkins will need to cut down on his base runners. He allowed 40 hits and 11 walks for a 1.298 WHIP, making it surprising that his ERA wasn't higher.

2019 Prognosis: Judkins started a midweek game against Loras College but never cracked the rotation again. He will be fighting with a couple of other underclassmen for starts next season, and at the very least seems like the favorite to be Iowa's midweek starter. Cutting down on his base runners is key because it's unlikely he'll always get out of jams. Another thing to look out for is whether Judkins, who had 30 at-bats, will stick as a two-way player. He was a superior hitter as a freshman, but the script flipped in 2018.

Jack Dreyer (FR)

2018: It was a little surprising not to see Jack Dreyer more right away. However, he ran with his chance late in the season. Dreyer struggled in his first career start against Missouri State (2.1 IP, 3 ER), which might have been why Heller didn't use him much until McDonald went down with an injury. He proceeded to allow one run over five innings against Oklahoma State, five-shutout innings against Northwestern, and two runs in six innings against Penn State. He had six strikeouts in each game, while allowing a total of eight hits. His 1.69 ERA in those starts are a better representation of his season. That said, at the start of the year, he dominated inferior opponents and struggled against UNLV and Missouri State.

2019 Prognosis: Dreyer should be in the weekend rotation after his end to 2018. As impressive as he was at the end of the year, three starts are still a very small sample size. Still, his .224 opponent batting average was only topped by Daniels, and three straight starts with six strikeouts shows he's hard to hit. Dreyer has a chance to have a special career at Iowa. All that's left to see is whether he starts Saturday or Sunday, and how he fares through an entire season.

Nick Nelsen (SR)

2018: Nick Nelsen has the most unique throwing motion on the team, one that has him throwing breaking balls in the mid-60s. Still, after a sub-par 2017, he became Iowa's second-best reliever behind Daniels in 2018. He had a 3.80 ERA and struck out 31 batters in 30 innings, as he picked up three saves. Nelsen also only issued 11 walks all season, to go along with a .233 opponent batting average. He was mainly used as Iowa's setup man, Saturday closer or a stopper, as evidenced by 19 of his 29 appearances being an inning or less. He also ended the season allowing just two earned runs over his final eight innings. 

2019 Prognosis: Nelsen graduated, retiring with career marks of: 2-4, 3 SV, 58.1 IP, 4.94 ERA, 51 K, 21 BB.

Trenton Wallace (FR)

2018: It was somewhat surprising to see Trenton Wallace consistently start Iowa's midweek games. Before an arm injury ended his season, Wallace had a 3.75 ERA over 13 appearances and eight starts. Of course, in typical Heller fashion, he only pitched a few innings during his midweek starts, meaning he only threw 24 innings this year. The freshman never had any terrible starts, but he also never turned heads until his three shutout innings against Mizzou. Unfortunately, that was also the last time he pitched this season. Wallace's 27 strikeouts are a good sign, though could partly be due to him throwing harder than usual knowing he would only pitch a few innings. In 2019, he has to limit his base runners. Like many freshman, he gave up too many hits, allowing more than one per inning on average and a .269 opponent batting average.

2019 Prognosis: It would make sense if Wallace is in Iowa's weekend rotation next season. He was Heller's go-to midweek starter, and as previously mentioned, never had a terrible outing. The biggest concern is we never saw Wallace pitch more than three innings, so his numbers are an extremely small sample size. There's no doubt he has potential, though, and at the very least could be Iowa's midweek starter again in 2019. Wallace is also an outfielder, but it wouldn't be surprising if he focused solely on pitching from now on.

Grant Leonard (SO)

2018: Grant Leonard didn't see any meaningful action in 2017, but he became a staple of Iowa's bullpen this season. His 4.84 ERA in 21.1 innings is inflated by two bad performances -- four earned runs in 0.1 innings against Mizzou and two earned runs in 0.2 innings against Northwestern. Take those games out and he owned a 2.21 ERA and saved two games. However, the bigger issue is that opponents hit .326 against him. He gave up multiple hits in eight of 18 outings of an inning or less. Leonard also had arguably Iowa's best relief performance this season when he threw six innings of two-hit ball against Western Illinois.

2019 Prognosis: With Daniels turning pro and Nelsen graduated, Iowa doesn't have a clear-cut favorite to be the next closer. Leonard should be in the mix, though. He saved a couple of games last year and was often called upon when Iowa was in jams. Leonard would need to limit his hits, but in his first season of meaningful action, he showed a lot of strikeout potential and kept most teams off the board.

Ben Probst (FR)

2018: Ben Probst appeared in 16 games and looked impressive as a freshman, allowing multiple runs just twice. He also got some valuable experience against top competition at the end of the season:

  • Michigan: 2 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 3 K, 2 BB
  • Mizzou: 2.1 IP, 4 ER, 4 H, 2 K, BB
  • Oklahoma State: 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 K, BB
  • Northwestern: 1.2 IP, ER, 4 H, K

Other than against Mizzou, when every pitcher got hit hard, he looked like a legitimate option out of the bullpen against major conference teams. His playing time was spread out, and we only saw him pitch more than an inning seven times, but he topped an inning in five of his final six outings. 

2019 Prognosis: Just like Dreyer and Wallace, Probst needs to allow fewer hits. His .298 opponent batting average could get Iowa into a lot of jams next season if he gets more playing time. With other options, Probst likely won't crack the starting rotation next season, but it wouldn't be surprising if he did in a few years. Until then, his bullpen role will grow, and he might have longer outings.

Cam Baumann (FR)

2018: Cam Baumann threw 15 innings for a 7.20 ERA in 18 appearances. He struggled mightily against major conference opponents. Baumann had a 13.50 ERA, including two appearances when he walked a batter and didn't record an out, against major conference opponents compared to a 3.00 ERA against mid-majors. Along with a .343 opponent batting average, he also walked 13 batters for a 2.467 WHIP.

2019 Prognosis: It wouldn't be surprising to see him get a lot of midweek action, then more weekend action at the end of the season, similar to this year. But he'll need to prove he can pitch against top competition before he sees a significantly bigger role. 

Shane Ritter (JR)

2018: Shane Ritter pitched 27 innings in each of his first two seasons, but it went down to 13 innings this year, including just seven appearances over the final two months. Simply put, Ritter struggled and could never dig himself out of the hole. He gave up five runs in his last three outings without recording an out and started the season with a 7.00 ERA through his first 10 appearances.

2019 Prognosis: Ritter's ERA has gone up every season. As a senior, Ritter will likely get a chance to cement his bullpen spot at the start of next season. However, it's a matter of whether he can hold onto it this time. If not, it will likely mean more scattered appearances for Ritter and a lot more inconsistent results.

Kyle Shimp (RS SO)

2018: Kyle Shimp was supposed to be a key part of Iowa's bullpen this season, but he didn't pitch after April 4. He started the year throwing four shutout innings, but then he ended the season with a 10.18 ERA -- 17.46 ERA if you don't count the first two outings. He gave up 11 hits, 10 walks and struggled to get anyone out in 9.2 innings.

2019 Prognosis: Shimp's role will be determined by whether the 2017 or 2018 Kyle Shimp shows up. With the departure of Daniels and Nelsen, Iowa really needs him to revert back to his 2017 self that had a 3.18 ERA and 5-1 record. He walked a lot of batters as a freshman, but opponents also only hit .186 against him. Shimp could be one of Iowa's most important relievers next year, or he could have the same fate we saw from him this year.

Kole Kampen (RS FR)

2018: Following Tommy John surgery, Kole Kampen made his Iowa debut. He allowed two earned runs in 0.1 innings against Illinois in his only Big Ten appearance, and Western Illinois scored a run in two innings during his only start. 

2019 Prognosis: Does his Western Illinois start mean Kampen could be a midweek starter in 2019? Maybe. It's simply too hard to judge a player on nine innings. He could have a Leonard resurgence, or he could stick in the back of the bullpen. It's hard to tell.

Derek Lieurance (FR)

2018: Derek Lieurance pitched in seven games and had a 4.26 ERA. Four of his six innings came against non-D1 competition, though. He didn't allow a run in 0.2 innings against Mizzou, while gave up two unearned runs in 0.2 innings versus Oklahoma State.

2019 Prognosis: It's hard to tell what Lieurance's role will be in 2019. However, Iowa will be searching for consistent arms in its bullpen, so why not Lieurance? He should get an opportunity there. 

NEXT: The 2018 season-in-review for Iowa's hitters. 

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