The Iowa baseball team’s 2017 lineup came into sharper focus Tuesday, with one player signing a pro contract and another left wondering why he wasn’t drafted.
Malique Ziegler, a North Iowa Area Community College outfielder who was committed to the Hawkeyes, signed with the San Francisco Giants, who had selected him in the 22nd round of last week’s Major League Baseball Draft.
That news is a big blow for Iowa coach Rick Heller, who could’ve used a five-tool outfielder like the former Des Moines East star who began his college career at Northern Illinois.
But the silver lining for the Hawkeyes is that infielder Mason McCoy is likely to be back for his senior season. McCoy went undrafted, which caught him by surprise.
McCoy started all 56 games for the Hawkeyes and batted .291, finishing the season as their cleanup hitter.
“The draft was obviously Plan A, because there was no reason I shouldn’t have went. But I didn’t,” McCoy said by phone from La Crosse, Wis., where he is playing for the second consecutive summer in the wood-bat Northwoods League. “So Iowa’s definitely the plan so far, unless a free-agent contract comes up.”
McCoy said the feedback he’d received days before the draft — usually a strong indicator for third-year prospects who can’t hire an agent in order to retain college eligibility — put him in the top 10 rounds of the 40-round MLB Draft. He said almost every team had reached out to him and that his financial bottom line was reasonable.
He had moved out of his Iowa City apartment with plans of turning pro.
“It wasn’t like I was asking for a million dollars,” McCoy said. “I wasn’t asking for very much — not even top-10 (rounds) money. That’s why I don’t understand what the deal is.”
McCoy’s hitting wasn't in question. The 6-foot, 175-pound native product of Washington, Ill., set a Northwoods League record last summer with 112 hits. Scouts told him then he still needed to improve his defense, something he felt like he demonstrated at Iowa despite playing third base for the first time.
“I guess I have to get 113 hits and hit .400,” McCoy said. “I really have no idea at this point.”
McCoy still could sign a free-agent MLB contract anytime this summer until he steps on Iowa’s campus in August. (He got four such offers last summer, but the money teams can offer is limited.)
More than likely, he’ll be Iowa’s top returning player in 2017 and starting at his natural position of shortstop. He'll be filling the hole left by first-team all-Big Ten Conference player Nick Roscetti.
He'll also carry a chip on his shoulder, with hopes of a better outcome next June
“I guess I have to keep doing the same thing and show that every single one of the scouts that didn’t draft me were wrong and that I’m more than capable of playing at that level,” McCoy said. “I know that I am. I guess I just have to show everybody else that I am — again.”