Iowa baseball: A look at what could be next for the Hawkeyes' top stars
Thursday’s 2-0 loss to Ohio State brought a disappointing end to an Iowa baseball season that once had tons of postseason hope. Iowa is still trending in the right direction under Rick Heller, but a bid for a third regional berth in four years fell just short.
As the Hawkeyes look to continue climbing in 2019, they’ll first have to navigate through the always-interesting MLB draft.
Iowa could take a sizable hit there, depending on how things unfold next month. Baseball America’s latest top 500, released Monday, has four Hawkeyes listed. The draft runs June 4-6.
Couple those potential losses with four key departing seniors — Nick Nelsen, Matt Hoeg, Tyler Cropley and Austin Guzzo — and Iowa could have big holes to fill next season.
A look at what’s ahead for Heller’s Hawkeyes:
The likeliest of the bunch to leave for the draft, Neustrom has continually progressed in each of his three Hawkeye seasons. The outfielder was just named a first-team all-Big Ten selection and had a nice junior season in the middle of Iowa’s lineup.
MORE: Iowa baseball: Inside Robert Neustrom's rise from D-I hopeful to MLB draft prospect
If Neustrom is selected within the first 180 picks, he’d become the Hawkeyes’ highest drafted position player since Danan Hughes in 1992.
Baseball America currently ranks Neustrom as the No. 190 overall prospect, so reaching that benchmark is certainly possible.
“Neustrom puts on quite a show in batting practice, when he displays plus-plus raw power,” his Baseball America scouting report reads. “But in games, he’s just as comfortable poking a ball to right field with a contact-oriented approach. That combination of contact ability and power potential makes him an interesting mid-day two pick.”
Day Two consists of rounds 3-10, and if Neustrom goes where he’s projected, chances are high he’ll head to the professional ranks. But the MLB draft is full of variables no other draft has, and anything could happen in crunch time.
The second-highest ranked Hawkeye on Baseball America latest top 500, Schanuel sits No. 413 after an up-and-down junior year. Despite early efficiency issues, the right-hander looked solid through the bulk of Iowa’s nonconference schedule.
The Big Ten Conference slate then rolled around, and Schanuel fizzled. After winning the conference’s co-pitcher of the week following his March 23 outing versus Indiana, the right-hander had just one quality start the rest of the way.
He was eventually yanked from the weekend rotation and finished the year with a 5.94 ERA.
The junior already turned down the draft twice — the Philadelphia Phillies selected him in the 20th round last season, the Oakland Athletics in the 36th round the year before — and Schanuel could feel he needs to bounce to pro ball before losing his leverage as a senior.
With a fastball that can reach the mid-90s and quality offspeed stuff, Schanuel’s arsenal has never been a problem. That’s why he’s on BA’s list.
But after a subpar season, another year with the Hawkeyes could be beneficial.
The redshirt junior southpaw bounced back from Tommy John as well as anyone could’ve expected in 2018. Allgeyer was Iowa’s unquestioned ace and delivered quality showing after quality showing all year, finishing with a 2.41 ERA over 97 innings.
Allgeyer currently sits No. 455 on Baseball America’s top-500, which roughly translates to about the 15th round.
You saw Nick Gallagher last season parlay a strong year as a Friday night arm into a 16th-round selection, then head to the minor leagues. Allgeyer could decide to do the same, depending on how the money shakes out.
The final Hawkeye on Baseball America’s latest top 500, Cropley comes in at No. 469.
Although the senior catcher tailed off late thanks in part to a thumb injury suffered at Western Illinois on May 15, Cropley was undoubtedly Iowa’s most consistent hitter in 2018. He was a first-team all-Big Ten selection as carried the Hawkeye offense at times.
Cropley won’t have any financial leverage as a senior, but his BA placement slots him as an early Day Three pick. Teams looking to bolster their minor-league catching stock could jump up and snag him earlier.
With Cropley’s departure known, Iowa will have a sizable hole to fill behind the plate. The senior backstop not only did damage with his bat, but also handled a pitching staff with durability and poise.
Daniels didn’t make Baseball America list, but the junior closer could still leave early if the situation is right.
The Cedar Rapids Kennedy product did struggle a bit late with control issues, but Daniels can still run it up to the low-to-mid 90s on any given night.
He was the Hawkeyes’ most trusted reliever this season, and would create a large spot to fill in the 2019 bullpen should he depart.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for The Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.