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Each year the top high school baseball prospects in the country have a decision to make — sign with the MLB team who drafts them for millions, or go to college? Hugh Kellenberger

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s the double-edged sword of a growing program, one that’ll put Rick Heller in an interesting spot come next week.

He’s readying for his fifth MLB draft as the Iowa baseball coach, and this year’s edition — which runs Monday through Wednesday — might be one of the most draining yet. For just the second time in the last 25 years, as many as five Hawkeyes could be picked in one draft. A couple pivotal recruits could go as well.

That’s outstanding publicity for an expanding brand. But it also stings the man in charge of replenishing that talent and reaching the ascending expectations Iowa now bears. It throws a wrench in recruiting and puts mapping out the next year on hold.  

“A lot of uncontrollables and a lot of good things too,” Heller said this week on KCJJ. It’s great when your kids are getting better, and it helps brings kids to your program. But on the other side, it’s very, very difficult to maintain the high level of talent and the high level of play that we’re wanting when you lose them.

“… Again, that’s the beauty of it is the program gets better — and the kids go on. But it’s very, very difficult as a school like ours to have guys in waiting because you can’t over-recruit and over-sign.”

Only one of the Hawkeyes’ five expected draftees is a senior, meaning the other four will have a decision to make on their remaining eligibility.

Heller is bracing for a mass exit.        

A look at where things stand heading into Monday — with analysis, scouting breakdowns and Heller's thoughts from his KCJJ appearance included. Rounds 1-2 will start Monday, 3-10 on Tuesday and 11-40 on Wednesday.  

Robert Neustrom

Position: OF

Eligibility remaining: One year

Last Baseball America ranking: No. 189

BA scouting report: Neustrom puts on quite a show in batting practice when he displays plus-plus raw power. 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. … Neustrom has to hit, as he is a fringe-average defensive left fielder. Neustrom runs well once underway, showing average speed going from first to third, but he’s slower out of the batter’s box.

Heller thoughts: “Realistically, I think we’re going to lose Robert Neustrom.”

Skinny: Couple last summer’s Cape Cod League showing with a solid junior year, and Neustrom has always been the likeliest Hawkeye to go. Scouts regularly visited Duane Banks Field throughout the season, which should be reflected with — at the very minimum — a top-10 round pick. Neustrom has been one of Iowa’s most productive position players as of late and should be the first Iowa player off the board.

Brady Schanuel   

Position: RHP

Eligibility remaining: One year

Latest Baseball America ranking: No. 408

BA scouting report: A 36th-round pick of the Athletics out of high school and a 20th-round pick of the Phillies in 2016 out of Parkland JC, Schanuel dominated early in the year, but fell apart as the season wore on. Schanuel has solid stuff, but he’s struggled to throw enough strikes for it to matter. He showed 94-95 mph velocity in the fall but settled in at 88-93 mph this spring. He doesn’t bounce the ball to the plate or throw it to the backstop, but he has issues finding the strike zone — he allowed 43 walks in 51 innings this year, which explains his 5-7, 5.94 record. Schanuel’s secondary pitches are interesting — he has a fringe-average changeup with solid deception and a promising if inconsistent slider. At his best, Schanuel is dominating — he struck out 11 in seven one-hit scoreless innings against Indiana this year. It was one of three times he pitched five or more innings with only one hit allowed. But he also had a string of disastrous outings in April and May.

Heller’s thoughts: “I think we’re going to lose Brady Schanuel, even though he didn’t have a great year. With his arm strength and the fact he’s been drafted twice before, there’s probably a very good chance that Brady will go to the draft as well.”

Skinny: As Heller alluded to, this will be Schanuel’s third time being drafted and his last chance to own any financial leverage. From that standpoint, it would certainly be understandable for the urgency clock to be ticking — even with his 2018 struggles. Schanuel’s potential will be good enough to get him drafted higher than his previous two selections — likely somewhere early on the third day.

Nick Allgeyer

Position: LHP  

Eligibility remaining: One year

Latest Baseball America ranking: No. 457

BA scouting report: Allgeyer has been Mr. Reliable for Iowa. After being pulled after five innings in his first start of the season, he worked six or more innings in each of his last 14 starts, allowing more than three earned runs only once over that span. There’s nothing exceptional about Allgeyer’s stuff — he’s 88-92 mph with a big-breaking slider and even bigger and slower curveball. To top it off, he has a potentially average changeup. What helps Allgeyer’s stuff play up is his above-average control and ability to mess with hitters’ timing by varying his speed to the plate.

Heller’s thoughts: “I think there’s a real good chance we’re going to lose Allgeyer. The one thing I will say with Nick is that he’s in a unique situation where he’s a redshirt junior, so a lot of these pro guys will almost look at him as a senior or older guy. I don’t think all the clubs will. I think Nick’s going to get the money that he wants and probably sign, but I also know Nick well enough that if he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll come back to school.”

Skinny: Allgeyer puts any Tommy John concerns in the rearview mirror with a dominant third season. He’s in a similar position that Nick Gallagher was in last year — an early third-day projection after a strong year as Iowa’s ace — and Allgeyer could make the same pro jump Gallagher did.

Tyler Cropley

Eligibility remaining: None

Position: C   

Latest Baseball America ranking: No. 472

BA scouting report: A standout at Iowa Western JC, Cropley has been equally productive in two years as Iowa’s catcher. Cropley will be one of the better senior signs in this draft class as a catcher who can receive and has a track record of hitting as well. Cropley hit .342/.449/.578 for Iowa this season with more walks (30) than strikeouts (28). Scouts are equally enamored with his ability to receive and run a team from behind the plate. He has an above-average arm. Cropley is deserving of being drafted on talent, but the fact that he will be a money saver as well makes him an enticing day two pick.

Heller’s thoughts: “The hitting has just been a great progression and a testament to Tyler’s work habits. Because when we signed Tyler out of Iowa Western — we thought he’d be a good hitter — but the primary focus was on his catching skills and being able to control the running game. He can run a little bit and do those things. But his hitting has just really progressed, especially after getting off to a pretty slow start the first month of the season his junior year. But he just kept at it, turned it around and turned into one of the best hitters in the Big Ten."   

Skinny: Cropley is almost certain to go higher than his No. 472 ranking projects, his scouting report indicates. He’s money-saving senior with no leverage, meaning teams can draft him higher and save some cash for players who might require more convincing in the later rounds. Still, Cropley’s ascension is one of Iowa’s biggest storylines of 2018. D1Baseball.com’s analytical rankings had him as the top senior hitter in the country.

Zach Daniels

Position: RHP

Eligibility remaining: One year

Latest Baseball America ranking: Unranked

BA scouting report: An undersized (5-foot-11, 160 pounds) closer, Daniels has some athleticism and can run his fastball up to 90-92 mph with some run and sink.

Heller’s thoughts: “You try to plan ahead, but then, you’ve got fringe guys who are still unknowns and it’s basically based on how they played their season … I think we’re going to lose Zach Daniels.”   

Skinny: Daniels is probably the fringiest of Iowa’s likely draft picks. Baseball America slots him as the state’s No. 11 draft prospect — that includes high school and JUCO guys — and Daniels should hear his name called at some point on Wednesday. He had a solid year as Iowa’s closer and could bounce before his financial leverage evaporates.  

Korry Howell

Position: SS

Eligibility remaining: Two years

Latest Baseball America ranking: No. 385

BA scouting report: Howell, an Iowa signee, is a projectable junior college shortstop with excellent athleticism. He’s a plus-plus runner who swiped 39 bases in 48 tries this season to go with his .397/.476/.565 slash line. Physically, Howell needs to fill out and get stronger. His high average aside, there are still worries that he doesn’t have much bat speed or strength in his swing right now. His arm is also below-average, although there’s some hope that he could improve that as he matures. His range is more than enough for shortstop and his hands work well, but if he’s drafted right now, it will be by a team willing to be patient while he matures. His speed would also play well in center field if his arm doesn’t improve.

Heller’s thoughts: “I think Korry Howell, I think there’s a very good chance we could lose Korry from Kirkwood. You just don’t know. But I think it’s 50-50.”

Skinny: Howell was a huge cog in Kirkwood’s World Series run. Early third day seems to be a likely landing spot for Howell, and it’ll largely depend on the situation if he decides to pass on Iowa or not.    

Clayton Nettleton

Position: RHP

Eligibility remaining: HS

Latest Baseball America ranking: Unranked

Heller’s thoughts: “We’ve had plenty of conversations, and I think we’re in good shape there. But then again, you don’t know. If someone comes in and offers him a lot of money, you just don’t know what will happen. So we’ll just kind of see how things shake out with next week.”

Skinny: A 6-foot-2, 205-pounder out of Davenport West, Nettleton had a 2.94 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 52 1/3 innings last season. He’s off to another strong start this year — 25 strikeouts in 14 innings. Nettleton could go somewhere on Wednesday, but the Hawkeyes feel confident he’ll head to school.  

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 msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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