By Pete Ruden
The smells of fresh hot dogs and popcorn are gone from Banks Field, as is the unmistakable sound of baseballs getting smacked by aluminum bats, but that doesn’t mean the Iowa baseball team is dormant.
As the MLB Draft wrapped up on June 6, big changes were made to the 2019 Hawkeye baseball roster, both on the mound and in the field. Some things will stay the same, though, as 20 Hawkeyes will play summer ball all over the country in preparation for next season.
Heading into the offseason, it’s hard not to think about how different Rick Heller’s squad will look next year.
Iowa’s two most productive players at the plate are gone — Robert Neustrom will forgo his senior season with the Hawkeyes after getting selected in the fifth round by the Baltimore Orioles, and Tyler Cropley was taken by the Washington Nationals in the eighth round after a stellar senior season.
Cropley boasted a slash line of .342/.449/.578, leading the team in all three categories. The McCook Lake, South Dakota, native also brought in a team-high 50 runs and roped 20 doubles.
Neustrom ranked second on the team with a .311 batting average to go along with 36 RBIs and a team-high 11 home runs.
Their departures leave the Hawkeyes with just one other player who hit above .300 in 2018 (Chris Whelan, .308).
Iowa’s pitching also took a significant hit in the draft.
The Toronto Blue Jays took Nick Allgeyer, the Hawkeyes’ best starter, in the 12th round, and the Atlanta Braves drafted Zach Daniels, Iowa’s go-to reliever, in the 19th round.
Saturday starter Brady Schanuel was also selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 27th round.
Allgeyer, the team’s ace, gave the Hawkeyes a chance to win just about every Friday, posting a 5-4 record and a team-best 2.41 ERA. His 95 strikeouts in 2018 put him at second all-time in the Hawkeye history books for punch outs in a season.
Daniels had the ability to slam the door on nearly any opposing comeback. He led the team with 6 wins, recording a 2.56 ERA and 49 strikeouts in the process. Daniels also earned 5 saves.
Schanuel, who was drafted for the third time last week, had a shaky year in his lone season in Iowa City. The Swansea, Illinois, native posted a 5-7 record with a 5.94 ERA. He did show a knack for punching out opposing batters, though, recording 65 strikeouts in 53 innings of work.
Daniels and Schanuel have already confirmed that they will sign to play professionally, and it would not be a surprise if Allgeyer followed suit.
With key pieces gone, the importance of players needing to step up cannot be understated, and progressing through summer leagues around the nation can help with that process.
Iowa will have players competing in the prestigious Cape Cod League for the second summer in a row. Jack Dreyer and Ben Norman are set to play for the Harwich Mariners, and Ben Probst will take the field for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks.
The Northwoods League boasts seven Hawkeye representatives, as Cam Baumann, Grant Judkins, Derek Lieurance, and Zion Pettigrew will be teammates on the LaCrosse Loggers, while Mitchell Boe, Brett McCleary, and Shane Ritter will team up on the Fond Du Lac Dock Spiders.
In the Prospects League, Whelan, Lorenzo Elion, and Justin Jenkins will play together for the Terre Haute Rex. Matt Berst will play for the Springfield Sliders, and Kyle Crowl will be on the Quincy Gems roster.
Kace Massner, Tanner Wetrich, and Grant Leonard will compete by themselves in the California Collegiate League, Coastal Plains League, and Chicago Suburban Baseball League, respectively.
To round out the Hawkeyes playing summer ball, Connor McCaffery will play for the Red Top Toppers of the Iowa Valley League, while Luke Farley will suit up for the Watkins Mudhens.