The MLB Draft doesn't get nearly the same publicity as the NFL or NBA Drafts -- mainly because even the very best players in the MLB Draft are still at least a year or two away from making it to the Big Show to ply their trade in front of the world -- but it does matter, and it's happening tonight. Well, starting tonight and then lasting for a really long time. It will probably wrap up sometime this weekend.
A year ago, fresh off their best season in decades, Iowa baseball had several players selected by MLB teams. The most notable was star junior pitcher Blake Hickman, who was taken in the 7th round by the Chicago White Sox. (Unfortunately his pro baseball debut has been delayed by injury.) Reliever Nick Hibbing, outfielder Eric Toole, 3B Kris Goodman, and RHP Tyler Peyton also heard their names called during the draft. Peyton, a junior, opted to come back for his senior season.
Unfortunately, that may not have been the best decision from a financial standpoint -- he no longer has the leverage he had from being an underclassmen (with the option of returning to college for one more year) and he suffered through an injury-plagued season (although he was very good at the plate and on the mound by season's end). And that's without mentioning his recent OWI arrest. Peyton still has plenty of talent that ought to intrigue an MLB team, though, and should still hear his name called again -- but whichever team selects him this year likely won't offer him as much as he could have received a year ago. Hopefully he's able to carve out a niche with an MLB team and put together a career that enables him to eventually get paid handsomely.
But let's break down the Hawkeyes who could hear their names called over during this year's draft. (And, to be clear, I have no idea when any of these guys might be drafted, beyond the fact that it likely won't be anytime in the early rounds. The MLB Draft is LOOOOOOOOOOONG and while Iowa has several good players, they don't have any mega-prospects that MLB teams are drooling over.)
STATS: .335/.507/.412; 72 hits, 17 doubles, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 8 stolen bases, 28 walks drawn / 4-5, 4.24 ERA, 68 IP, 47 K, 19 walks, .230 opponent BA
The pitching stats there are probably more relevant than the batting stats; while Peyton is no slouch at the plate, it seems like his ability on the mound is going to be his MLB meal ticket. He was selected as a pitcher last year and presumably the same would be true for him this year. Last year Peyton was taken in the 33rd round and his stats were mostly better (7-4, 3.03 ERA, 95 IP, 72 K, 24 walks, .264 BA), although his pitching stats for the last month of the season (when he appeared to be fully recovered from his lingering arm issues) were excellent.
STATS: .370/.532/.421; 87 hits, 19 doubles, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 23 stolen bases
While Peyton likely hurt himself by returning for a senior year, Booker helped himself enormously by returning to Iowa. He struggled mightily as a junior -- .235/.304/.310; 51 hits, 7 doubles, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 9 stolen bases -- but everything clicked for him in a big way this season. He tore apart Big Ten pitching, especially at the end of the season and damn near single-handedly carried Iowa to a Big Ten Tournament Championship. He improved his draft stock considerably this year. Iowa's top position player draftee last year was Eric Toole, a center fielder who went in the 22nd round; Booker's stats this year absolutely dwarf Toole's senior year (.306/.381/.373; 77 hits, 8 doubles, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 27 stolen bases), so he might go even higher.
STATS: .305/.386/.376; 72 hits, 10 doubles, 3 HR, 39 RBI, 9 stolen bases
Senior Roscetti was a lot like junior Roscetti -- .303/.348/.358; 60 hits, 6 doubles, 1 HR, 27 RBI, 9 stolen bases -- only just a little bit better. He also played fantastic defense and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. He'll definitely get drafted at some point.
STATS: .291/.390/.367, 65 its, 12 doubles, 2 HR, 34 RBI
McCoy is the biggest wildcard for Iowa in the MLB Draft and the player whose MLB Draft fate will have the biggest fate on Iowa baseball next year. Obviously, losing Peyton, Booker, and Roscetti will hurt a lot -- they were hugely productive players and team leaders and their absences will be keenly felt -- but they're also seniors. No matter what, Iowa was going to have to move on without them next season. McCoy is tentatively penciled in to be one of Iowa's key players next year, a middle-of-the-lineup hitter as well as Roscetti's possible replacement at shortstop. McCoy had a solid junior season in his first year after arriving from Illinois Central Community College, but it's not hard to dream about what he could do in a senior year at Iowa, especially after the senior campaign that fellow JUCO transfer Joel Booker had this past season.
Still, if McCoy gets drafted fairly highly and gets a good MLB offer, he's gone. As Heller said, "[he's] got a number and if he gets [it], he's going to go." And I wouldn't begrudge him that at all.
STATS: 2-1, 4.15 ERA, 47.2 IP, 25 K, 24 walks, .260 opponent BA; 16 app (3 starts)
Outside of Peyton, the most likely Iowa pitcher to get drafted is probably redshirt junior Ryan Erickson. He still has a year of eligibility remaining, but there's been some chatter that he's looking to move on. He had solid stats as one of Iowa's primary long relievers this season and could be a late round selection.(NOTE: RS SO C.J. Eldred is technically draft-eligible, but per Chad Leistikow, he's fully expected to return to Iowa City in 2017.)
Also of note: the signees in Iowa's 2016 recruiting class. Iowa signed one of the top classes in the Big Ten, but the quality of that group could take a significant hit if a few key guys opt to go pro instead. In an article at Hawk Central, Leistikow identified SS Kyle Crowl, P/3B Grant Judkins, and P Kole Kampen as the most likely recruits to garner MLB interest this weekend. Iowa's going to be relying on several newcomers in 2017 and a few of those guys might have been expected to contribute immediately for the Hawkeyes.
We'll update the Iowa players taken in the MLB Draft throughout the weekend. (Also: I'm still planning on a series of look-ahead posts for Iowa baseball in 2017, but as it happens it will be more useful to do so after the MLB Draft is over and we know exactly who will be returning for Iowa next season.)