Draft : : State Preview
Sunday, May 29, 2011

State Preview: Iowa

David Rawnsley        

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

Iowa State-by-State List

Iowa Overview:
State Lacks Headliner in 2011; Iowa Western Seeks Repeat of JC Title

Iowa’s draft status each year is almost always dictated by its ability to produce a top high-school prospect. Over the last dozen years, the state has produced six draft picks in the top four rounds, and each is from the high-school ranks.

In 2010, Jefferson High third baseman Kellen Sweeney was a second-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, just like his brother Ryan was a second-rounder of the Chicago White Sox seven years earlier at a rival Cedar Rapids high school. In addition to the elder Sweeney, the list of early-round Iowa draft prospects who have progressed to the big leagues includes the likes of current big leaguers Jeremy Hellickson, a Tampa Bay Rays fourth-rounder in 2005, and Joel Hanrahan, a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000.

The state hasn’t had a college or junior-college player picked in the top 10 rounds since 2001, when righthander Alan Bomer was selected in the ninth round by the Chicago Cubs out of the now-disbanded Iowa State program. Of course, the state is down to only one NCAA Division I program (Iowa) after Iowa State and Northern Iowa both dropped baseball over the last decade for financial reasons.

Even with the significant success that Iowa Western and Des Moines Area have enjoyed in recent years at the junior-college level, neither of those schools has been in the draft spotlight, either.

Though Iowa high schools don’t play a conventional spring schedule, it has already been established that there isn’t a single player of Kellen Sweeney’s caliber in Iowa in 2011, so Iowa’s overall impact in the early rounds this year will be minimal. But there is significant depth in the high-school crop, and at least 15 Iowa players have signed Division I scholarships. They will all have a chance to enhance their credentials in Iowa’s summer high-school leagues.

Mt. Pleasant High’s 6-foot-5 lefthander Braden Shull has emerged as the top prospect in the state, high school or otherwise, for this year’s draft. His prospect standing has closely paralleled the rise in his fastball velocity, from 84-86 mph last fall, to 88-91 this spring.

Shull is one of three Iowa prep hurlers who has been touching 91-92 mph. Washington High righthander Dakota Freese and Mason City High righthander Brandon Platts have also been in that range, but neither is quite in Shull’s category as a prospect. Platts missed much of the spring with a hamstring problem.

The state’s two best high-school position prospects, coincidently, both roam the outfield for Solon High. Derrick Loveless and Nick Day have also committed to play together at Iowa, where freshman outfielder and Iowa native Taylor Zuetenhorst has already established himself as the state’s top 2013 prospect. Should that trio end up playing together, even for two years, it would undoubtedly provide a shot in the arm for the Hawkeyes program, which went a disappointing 20-32 in 2011.

Even with its subpar season, Iowa could still end the state’s 10-year drought of not producing a single draft pick from the college ranks as 6-foot-6 lefthander Matt Dermody has been very popular with area scouts dating back to his junior year at Norwalk High. There is some frustration in Dermody’s development into a legitimate pitching prospect, though, as hasn’t added significant weight or strength in two years in college.

But Dermody now runs his fastball into the upper-80s consistently, and touches the low-90s on occasion, and has a sharp curveball as a fine complementary pick. Scouts would prefer that Dermody spend another year in college to further develop his talent, but he is an age-eligible sophomore and the temptation might be there for Dermody to get into a professional training program immediately.

On Iowa’s thriving junior-college front, Iowa Western won the Junior College World Series a year ago without having a single player drafted. The Rievers earned the right to defend their 2010 national title, but that draft quirk will not happen again as the team has a legitimate prospect in 6-foot-4, 220-pound freshman third baseman Damek Tomscha, who put together a huge season with the bat (.374-13-55). Tomscha may actually impress scouts even more with his raw arm strength as he has been clocked at 95 mph across the infield. They are anxious to see him show off his big arm on the mound, but Tomscha did not pitch at all this spring.

The Reivers got off to their customary slow start on their February/March southern road swing and didn’t even top .500 overall until March 13. They rolled after that, going 29-8 the rest of the way to easily qualify for a return trip to the national tournament.

Des Moines Area (46-16) also earned a chance at winning a national title, in this case the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II championship, and features its own top prospect for this year’s draft in freshman righthander Austin Urban. A Pennsylvania native who was originally slated to go to Penn State, Urban had moderate success (6-4, 3.56, 68 IP/38 BB/84 SO) this spring, but drew plenty of scouting attention with a fastball that was consistently 92-93 mph. He flashed impressive secondary stuff, but struggled to throw strikes and lacked pitchability.

Iowa in a Nutshell:

Depth of good arms.
WEAKNESS: Premium position talent.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3.


PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Braden Shull, lhp, Mt. Pleasant HS.
Improved mechanics had the 6-foot-6 Shull touching 91 mph this spring, a significant jump from last summer, when he worked comfortably at 84-86. A top-notch student, Shull has signed with Kansas State and could be a signability risk.

PROSPECT ON THE DECLINE: Patrick Lala, rhp, University of Iowa.
Lala has an electric arm and can touch 94-95 mph at times. But he has done little over the last year to refine his max-effort delivery or command (46 IP/37 BB), which will probably not tempt a team to pick him much higher than the Philadelphia Phillies did in 2010 (29th round).

WILD CARD: Matt Dermody, lhp, University of Iowa.
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Dermody took a moderate step forward this spring as a prospect (4-6, 4.15, 85 IP/26 BB/75 SO), but as a draft-eligible sophomore, could blossom in 2012 with another year in school.

Colin Rea, rhp, Indiana State University (attended high school in Cascade).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Calvin Matthews, rhp, Davis County HS, Bloomfield.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Taylor Zeutenhorst, of, University of Iowa.

Draft History: Mike King, lhp, Morningside College (1980, Athletics/1st round, 4th pick).
2006 Draft: Zach Jevne, rhp, U. of Northern Iowa (Orioles/27th round).
2007 Draft: Jon Gilmore, 3b, Iowa City HS (Braves/1st round, 33rd pick).
2008 Draft: B.J. Hermsen, rhp, West Delaware HS, Manchester (Twins/6th round).
2009 Draft: Steve Turnbull, rhp, U. of Iowa (Blue Jays/17th round).
2010 Draft: Kellen Sweeney, 3b, Jefferson HS, Cedar Rapids (Blue Jays/2nd round).


(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

1. BRADEN SHULL, lhp, Mt. Pleasant HS
+ pitcher’s build (6-5/200), + velo improvement, FB now 88-91; CU has good shape, lacks hard bite, OK CH.
2. AUSTIN URBAN, rhp, Des Moines Area CC (Fr.)
PA product, Orioles 27th-rounder in 2010; FB sits 90-92/T-95, flashes + SL; so-so success as FR (6-4, 3.55).
3. MATT DERMODY, lhp, University of Iowa (So.)
Slender build (6-5/190), struggles to gain strength; loose/easy arm; FB 88-89/T-92, gets good tilt on CU/CH.
4. DAMEK TOMSCHA, 3b/rhp, Iowa Western CC (Fr.)
+ strong (6-2/205), + RH power potential (.374-13-58), ++ raw arm strength, some scouts feel future as RHP.
5. DAKOTA FREESE, rhp, Washington HS, Cedar Rapids
Lincecum-like mechanics, loose arm/ slight frame (6-4/185), FB 89-92, flashes CU/SL sharpness, + signable.

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