State Reports: Iowa




THIS YEAR'S CROP
***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here
Iowa's two best prospects are high schoolers who are more likely to attend Oregon State than turn pro this summer. Outfielder Brent Warren needs to get stronger and righthander B.J. Hermsen's stuff has slipped, and both figure to go higher in the draft after three years with the Beavers. The Hawkeye State's first player drafted likely will be Northern Iowa shortstop Brandon Douglas, the Missouri Valley Conference player of the year.

NATIONAL TOP 200 PROSPECTS

1. Brent Warren, of, Xavier HS, Cedar Rapids (National Rank: 130)

OTHER PROSPECTS OF NOTE

2. B.J. Hermsen, rhp, West Delaware HS, Manchester
3. Brandon Douglas, ss, Northern Iowa
4. Kevin Hoef, 3b, Iowa
5. Nick Kirk, lhp, Northern Iowa
6. Mitch Mormann, rhp, Des Moines Area CC
7. Brian Feekin, lhp, Iowa Western CC
8. Brance Rivera, ss, Muscatine HS
9. Caleb Curry, of/2b, Iowa
10. Guido Fonseca, rhp, Northern Iowa

SCOUTING REPORTS

1. Brent Warren, of, Xavier HS, Cedar Rapids (National Rank: 130)

Warren feared his baseball career was over when a routine physical during his junior year revealed that he had a congenital heart defect. But he was cleared to return to the diamond after surgery and re-established himself as a quality prospect for the 2008 draft. Extremely projectable at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, Warren is reminiscent of former Iowa prep standout Ryan Sweeney—and he's more athletic than Sweeney was. Though he still has room to add a lot of strength, the ball jumps off Warren's bat at times. He's an intelligent hitter with a sweet lefthanded swing that catches up to good fastballs. He's an above-average runner and center fielder, and while his arm isn't back to where it was before his heart surgery, it should be average in time. Pro clubs are focusing on Warren as an outfielder, but he could contribute as a two-way player if he attends Oregon State.

Hermsen Confounds Scouts

After reaching 93 mph with his heavy fastball and showing a nice slider last summer, righthander B.J. Hermsen projected as a possible sandwich-round pick. But he broke his collarbone as a football quarterback in the fall, which set him back. The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder hasn't been in top physical condition, and both his fastball (down to the mid-80s) and his slider regressed this spring. He did touch 92 mph at the Perfect Game Predraft Showcase in mid-May, but scouts saw a lot of effort in his delivery and still didn't like his slider. Unlikely to receive a significant bonus, Hermsen could join Warren at Oregon State.

Brandon Douglas has been the first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference shortstop in each of his three seasons at Northern Iowa, and this year he added league player of the year honors as well. He has good pop for a middle infielder, batting .396 with a school-record 25 doubles and 10 homers in 2008. He has a knack for making consistent hard contact, fanning just 14 times in 225 at-bats. His speed, arm and range are all average, though he may wind up moving to second base down the road. The Reds drafted him in the 37th round in 2007, when he was a redshirt sophomore hampered by hamstring injuries.

Kevin Hoef helped his cause by hitting .317 with wood bats against top competition in the Cape Cod League last summer, but he may be more of a tweener. He moved from shortstop because he had below-average range and speed, and he doesn't have much pop for a third baseman. Adding strength to his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame might help. He does have a strong arm, though his bet fit might be as an offensive second baseman. He played second base in the Cape all-star game.

Lefthander Nick Kirk attracted strong interest early in the season, when he featured an 89-91 mph fastball with run and sink and a good slider. He threw a no-hitter with 15 strikeouts against Evansville. But he came down with a stiff forearm in early April, and when he returned, his fastball sat in the low 80s and he was reluctant to throw his slider. He was back up to 88 mph and using his slider again by the end of Northern Iowa's season.

Several scouts went in to see righthander Mitch Mormann after reports that he touched 94 mph, but they came away underwhelmed after he struggled against Junior College World Series-bound Iowa Western. He's a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder with raw arm strength, but his secondary pitches, command and mound presence all need a lot of work.

The best prospect on Iowa Western, which qualified for the last two Juco World Series, is Brian Feekin. Feekin, who redshirted at Nebraska in 2007, is also a work in progress. A 6-foot-6, 225-pound lefty who can run his fastball up to 93 mph, he'd be a perfect target if the draft-and-follow process still existed.

Caleb Curry stole an Iowa-record 45 bases as a senior, ranking third nationally in that category entering NCAA regional play. He's a plus runner with good instincts on the bases and in center field, and he also gets the job done at second base. Though he's just 6 feet and 175 pounds, he has a little pop and isn't just a slap hitter.