By Adam Hensley and Pete Ruden
After the 2018 MLB Draft took five Hawkeyes from head coach Rick Heller’s 2018 squad, including its two best hitters, there’s a need for replacements more than just at the plate.
Iowa also had three pitchers go in the draft — Friday starter Nick Allgeyer, Saturday starter Brady Schanuel, and closer/reliever Zach Daniels.
With Allgeyer and Schanuel heading to the professional ranks, there is only one hurler who has a season’s worth of experience pitching on the weekends: Cole McDonald.
That experience — along with the results — make McDonald a clear choice to be the next Iowa Friday starter.
In 11 starts this past season, McDonald finished with the second-best ERA among starters, 3.23, trailing only Allgeyer, who ended up being a 12th-round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays.
McDonald finished the year with a 3-2 record and struck out 52 opposing batters in 55.2 innings of work.
While his opponents’ batting average of .249 could use some improvement, McDonald didn’t let many runs score, showing he can get out of a jam, and that is what Iowa needs out of a Friday starter.
The Hawkeyes need someone who gives them a chance to win on the first day of every weekend series, much like Allgeyer did last year and Nick Gallagher did the year before that.
Sure, there are such options as Jack Dreyer, who proved his worth in important starts toward the end of the season, but you can’t ask much more out of McDonald than what he gave last season.
His experience and production from his spot on the weekend rotation last year are simply too much to turn down.
— Pete Ruden
Dreyer is my dark horse pick to snag the Friday job. Cole McDonald has the experience, but Dreyer has looked especially sharp against some of the toughest competition Iowa faced this past season.
Against No. 12 Oklahoma State, Dreyer got the starting nod and delivered. He pitched 5 innings, giving up only 1 run on 2 hits while striking out 6 Cowboys. Oklahoma State’s red-hot offense, which just one day earlier put up 14 runs against Iowa, was silenced, thanks to Dreyer’s arm.
Dreyer ended his 2018 season on a high note, going 6 innings against Penn State. The then-freshman posted a similar stat line (2 runs on 2 hits with 6 strikeouts) to cap the Hawkeyes’ regular season with a win.
The Johnston native had the fifth-best ERA on the Hawkeyes. His 3.69 ERA is the second-best mark for returning Hawkeyes.
Dreyer finished 2018 with a 5-2 record. His five wins tied with Allgeyer and Schanuel for a team high; with both Allgeyer and Schanuel now playing professionally, Dreyer has the most wins of all returning arms.
He’s also got the second-highest strikeout total from 2018, boasting 42 in his 31.2 innings pitched, and he held opposing batters to a .224 batting average, the third-best total from last season.
McDonald has the experience to win the Friday job, I’d like to make that clear. But Dreyer’s late-season action could easily bump him ahead for Iowa’s go-to arm for weekend series.
— Adam Hensley